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A generational mandate

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MASERU-IT is not too often that you get to meet PhD holders who are in their early 30s.
But for Makhamisa Senekane, who graduated from the University of KwaZulu-Natal with a doctorate in Physics at the young age of 32, that was nothing to gloat about.
For him it was just a rite of passage.

“It looked so normal because all my friends were doing it. I had to go through that phase which I thought was normal,” he says.
Even when others were in awe of his stunning academic achievement, Senekane never had the luxury to sit back and marvel at his own achievement.
The soft-spoken Senekane speaks of his PhD feat nonchalantly. His PhD thesis focused on quantum security and computing.
Senekane is a lecturer in the Department of Physics and Electronics at the National University of Lesotho (NUL).

Growing up in the early 90s, Senekane says he was always fascinated by electronic gadgets.
Sometimes he would break up things. Of course his mother was not amused by his antics.

“I would always fiddle with things. I wanted to find out how mechanical things worked and for that I always got into trouble with my mother,” he says.
Yet it was that unquenchable thirst for knowledge even at that early age that set the basis for what has now proved to be an exciting, life-long quest for knowledge.
Senekane says he initially wanted to be a medical doctor, impressed by how doctors conducted themselves in the community.
“I was in awe of doctors,” he says.

But that dream died when he struggled with Biology in high school.
“I found comfort working with Mathematics and Science,” he says.
At the NUL, Senekane studied Mathematics, Physics and Computer Science.

He says it is critical for students to study physics which he says is the basis for any scientific innovations.
“You need to learn more about nature and once you understand Physics, you are able to innovate technologically,” he says.
“That understanding of nature helps us design electronic systems. That is where engineering comes in.”

Not long ago, the National University of Lesotho was the recipient of blistering criticism that it was not producing graduates who would fit in with the demands of the 21st century.
Critics said some of the university’s programmes, which were designed in the 1970s, had become obsolete and needed to be revamped.
Senekane accepts the criticism and the need to upgrade some of the academic programmes. He however acknowledges that this criticism might be a result of a “generational bias”.
“For most of my generation, we have lots of interesting programmes that we are doing like the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence.”
To improve academic standards, Senekane wants to see a drastic change in how the system works.

“The problem is that we tend to have politicians who impose things on people instead of having a bottom-up approach,” he says.
He wants to see a “bottom up” approach in education that will see more consultations with the grassroots in the search for solutions to communities’ developmental challenges.
Senekane cites the recent case of the controversial curriculum development in Lesotho where students are moved to the next grade even when they have not done well academically.
He says it would appear there were not enough consultations with teachers who are at the grassroots to secure their buy-in into the new curriculum.

“Teachers did not have enough time to prepare and acclimatise with everything. The result is that teachers are demotivated. They are dissatisfied. It’s not clear what informs the new system,” he says.
Senekane wants to see “more democratic, inclusive and coordinated solutions” to Lesotho’s developmental challenges.
“We don’t need to impose solutions on the people,” he says.

Senekane says the university is doing all it can to address the challenge of unemployment through its Innovation Hub.
“Our students already have the technical skills and just need to convert such skills into jobs,” he says.
Senekane is a member of the 12-member NUL Research and Innovations Committee that seeks to identify viable projects that could be converted into businesses.

“Our hope is that with enough funds we should be able to grow the innovation projects so that they can be industrialised. That requires a lot of money,” he says.
Senekane says the days of the NUL being the laughing stock in the region are long gone. He says while the university might not be at the same level with some of the well-funded universities in South Africa, they can still hold their own when they compare some of their research projects.

“The fact that some of our students are able to go there (in South Africa) and compete at post-graduate level means we are not doing badly at all (here at NUL),” he says.
Senekane appears to be painfully aware of the constricting political environment in which he and his colleagues at the university are operating under.
That toxic environment, added to a negative cultural matrix where we don’t question our elders is contributing to a docile society that tolerates mediocrity, he says.

“We venerate our leaders so much to the extent that they take advantage of that,” he says. “We have outsourced everything to them – our thinking and our morals to them. We don’t question our leaders, instead we venerate them.”

“Everything they do, we believe is OK. We have no mechanism to hold our leaders accountable.”
Senekane’s ideas appear so radical and revolutionary in a society that appears shackled by its past. His views appear to be a genuine cry by the younger generation to be heard. And if his views are representative of the youths, then Lesotho’s geriatric politicians must now expect a bumpy ride ahead as the youths, long used as pawns in bigger political battles, demand the right to be heard.
Senekane says he wants to see a massive shake-up of Lesotho’s political system to ensure “youth involvement in decision-making”.

“We need a more inclusive environment and the only way to do this is to have more platforms to discuss these issues,” he says.
“We need to move beyond rhetoric and start implementing whatever plans that we have. We need action and more action rather than just talk about corruption.”
Senekane says he is fully aware of the immense challenges facing today’s youths who are battling to put food on the table and have no luxury to be forward thinking.
“We are too busy worrying about the short-term,” he says. He says the environment we live in is very toxic for the youth to change politics. The limited resources hinder youths from thinking beyond political issues.

Senekane says he wants to see Lesotho at the same wave-length like the rest of Africa. Of course to make that technological jump will require loads of political will by the leadership, a reality Senekane says he is fully aware.

“If I had a chance to speak to the Prime Minister (Thomas Thabane) I would ask him to come up with (developmental) strategies that are inclusive. He must allow a bottom-up approach to development and he must focus on implementation,” he says.

He says some of the reasons good policies are never implemented is that the people would not have been consulted in the first place.
Senekane was born on March 31, 1984 to a father who was a police officer and a mother who was a house-wife. Senekane and his three siblings grew up in Botha-Bothe but are originally from Roma.

Senekane passed COSC with first class from Christ the King High School at the tender age of 17. He then enrolled at the NUL for a Degree in Electronics.
He attributes his academic flair to his uncle Motlatsi Senekane, who instilled within him the love of books and knowledge. He says his uncle always helped him with school work and would make

sure he understands what he read.
Senekane, who also holds a Masters in Electrical Engineering, is married to Mosele Tsemane (Senekane).

Abel Chapatarongo & ’Mamakhooa Rapolaki

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Blow for former DCEO boss

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AN attempt by Advocate Mahlomola Manyokole to block his prosecution for fraud and money laundering failed last Friday after the Court of Appeal dismissed his petition.

Advocate Manyokole and one of his seven co-accused, Relebohile Lesholu, approached the Court of Appeal after High Court judge Justice ’Maliepollo Makhetha refused to permanently stay their prosecution last year.

Manyokole was first suspended and later fired as the director-general of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) before he was dragged to court on criminal charges in 2021.

Manyokole and Lesholu were seeking a permanent stay of prosecution after the crown took 18 months without prosecuting them from the date of their first appearance in the Magistrate’s Court.

They were also complaining that the state charged them before investigations were completed, citing challenges with respect to appointment of prosecutors for the trial.

They applied for a permanent stay of prosecution before Justice Makhetha on grounds that they were denied the right to a fair trial within a reasonable time as the state had failed to furnish them with indictment, criminal docket and witness statements.

The required documents were however furnished before the stay application was heard, leading to Justice Makhetha dismissing the application on grounds that the matter had become moot.

The President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Kananelo Mosito, sitting with Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane and Justice Moses Chinhengo, found that the period of delay was not egregious and caused no irreparable trial-related prejudice.

The Court of Appeal said the criticism that Justice Makhetha erred in deciding that the matter of the issue of supply of the documents was moot by the time the stay application was heard or finally decided cannot be faulted.

“The State explained in sufficient detail why the documents were not furnished by the time of the stay applications,” Justice Mosito said.

“That explanation is not fanciful but reflects the reality and challenges faced by small jurisdictions such as ours in dealing with many complex and serious offences against accused persons in one trial,” he said.

“There was no refusal by the state to furnish the documents.”

The court found that the state faced real challenges with regard to completion of investigations, appointment of prosecutors and associated issues including the need for thorough preparations for the trial by the appointed prosecutors.

The state, the court said, was edging towards the holding of the Pre-Trial Planning Session (PTPS), scheduled for December 12, 2022, when they lodged the stay applications in the forlorn hope that a permanent stay would be granted.

The court determined whether the delay of 18 months was so inordinate or over-lengthy as to warrant the drastic order of a permanent stay of prosecution.

It found that it cannot be said that the delay in bringing the accused to trial in this case is egregious, nor can it be said that there already had been trial-related prejudice suffered by the appellants.

“A permanent stay of prosecution is a drastic and exceptional remedy entirely unsuitable to be granted at this nascent stage of the proceedings,” Justice Mosito said.

Justice Mosito said had the appellants “not truncated the process and had allowed PTPS scheduled on 12 December 2022 to go ahead, the trial may have been completed by now, 15 months later”.

He said accused people and their lawyers must be discouraged from pursuing unmeritorious applications for permanent stay without proper regard to the complexity of charges they are facing and the availability of institutional resources.

“Although the appellants have not been successful, costs may not be visited upon them, this being essentially a criminal matter,” he said.

The court also found that the appellants themselves contributed to the delay of their prosecution.

One of the state prosecutors, ’Mamongonyo Baasi, explained the causes of the delay in submitting the docket.

She said the 24 charges “are sophisticated economic offences” committed by senior officials of the DCEO and require a high degree of attention from any would-be prosecutor.

She said the forensic report that the state largely relies on was only completed on June 20, 2022.

The lawyer initially assigned to prosecute the case withdrew from the matter and new prosecutors had to be appointed and they needed time to familiarise themselves with the voluminous documents involved.

The prosecutors had to consult with necessary witnesses including forensic experts from PriceWaterhouse & Coopers who are resident in South Africa.

Baasi denied that the charges are trumped up and asserted in strong terms that there is a prima facie case against all accused persons as disclosed in the docket.

She said the accused persons demanded the documents verbally and in writing before the investigations were completed.

During the period between May 2021 and October 2022, there had been a change of prosecutors.

Responding more directly to Manyokole’s affidavit, Baasi said the prejudice he suffered, if any, did “not outweigh that which the State would suffer if a permanent stay was granted”.

“The state undoubtedly suffers prejudice if such heinous crimes are not prosecuted in circumstances where (Manyokole) was operating within the purview of a law enforcement agency and arbitrarily used institutional power of the DCEO for self-aggrandisement,” she said.

Staff Reporter

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Lawyer wins praises for defending legal profession

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THE Court of Appeal has praised Advocate Rethabile Setlojoane for resisting the police’s attempt to force him to violate the principle of attorney-client privilege during investigations.

The Court President, Justice Kananelo Mosito, flanked by four other Justices of Appeal, last Friday ruled that it is crucial to uphold the fundamental legal principle of attorney-client privilege.

The court said Advocate Setlojoane had sought to vindicate not only his own rights but also the rights and ethical obligations of the legal profession as a whole.

The court also criticised the High Court for declining jurisdiction when Advocate Setlojoane approached it last year complaining about the police’s conduct.

Advocate Setlojoane is representing Lehlohonolo Selate who is currently in prison facing a raft of charges.

Selate is suspected of defrauding the government of M50 million between October 2020 and September 2021.

A company called Sunny Penny (Pty) Ltd, in which Selate has some interest in, is also suspected of being involved in the fraud.

The police investigators summoned Advocate Setlojoane for questioning following the payment from Sunny Penny (Pty) Ltd.

During the questioning, the police directed him to surrender all files relating to his client and money paid as fees by Sunny Penny (Pty) Ltd.

Advocate Setlojoane refused to do so, citing the principle of lawyer-client privilege.

He was taken to the Subordinate Court in an attempt to have him joined as an accused in the case against Selate.

However, his lawyer objected to this joinder by invoking provisions of Section 128(1) of the Constitution of Lesotho, which requires that constitutional questions be referred to the High Court.

The magistrate accepted the objection and did not join Advocate Setlojoane as an accused.

Consequently, he instituted an application in the High Court and on June 12 last year a coram of three judges made up of Justices Moroke Mokhesi, Polo Banyane and, ’Maliepollo Makhetha heard the application.

On September 14, 2023, the High Court delivered its judgment and dismissed the application, declining to exercise its constitutional jurisdiction over the violation of the lawyer-client privilege and the right to legal representation.

The High Court based its reasons on the availability of other adequate means of redress.

The court said the lawyer-client privilege is a fundamental principle that is essential for effective legal representation and protecting client’s rights.

It also said by declining jurisdiction, the High Court missed an opportunity to guide the scope and application of the lawyer-client privilege within the Lesotho legal system.

The court said, however, it is important to note that section 22 of the Constitution allows the High Court to decline to exercise its powers if it is satisfied that adequate means of redress are or have been available under other laws.

The court should exercise its discretion to decline jurisdiction only in “very exceptional circumstances”.

The Court of Appeal highlighted “the right of the client to be free from disclosure of confidential communications with his or her lawyer, subject only to the limited exceptions recognised by the common law”.

The court emphasised that the lawyer-client privilege is not merely a rule of evidence but a fundamental principle that ensures the effective exercise of the right to legal representation and the fairness of criminal proceedings.

It also said the rationale of the privilege is not the protection of the individual client, but the upholding of the administration of justice itself, which depends on the free and full communication between clients and their legal advisers.

It said an accused person could challenge the admissibility of evidence obtained through the unauthorised recording of conversations with their legal counsel, as such recordings would violate the lawyer-client privilege and undermine the right to effective legal representation.

The court said while the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act 2008 does not directly mandate a legal representative or adviser to hand over client funds paid as fees, it imposes obligations to report suspicious transactions.

If subsequent investigations and legal processes determine that these funds are proceeds of crime, they may be subject to confiscation or forfeiture.

Therefore, the legal representative’s duty primarily involves reporting rather than direct transfer of funds to the authorities, unless directed by a court order following due legal processes.

The court said while the police do not have the explicit authority to directly demand the handing over of client funds paid as fees to legal advisers merely on suspicion, they are permitted to seize such funds if there is a reasonable suspicion they are proceeds of crime.

This would typically follow from a structured legal process including reporting, investigation, and potentially judicial proceedings where evidence supports the suspicion of money laundering or related criminal activities.

It said while it is imperative to dismantle the barriers that secrecy laws may create in the fight against financial crimes, it is equally crucial to uphold the fundamental legal principle of attorney-client privilege.

The preservation of this privilege ensures that while legal practitioners may be required to disclose certain information, the core elements of their advisory role remain protected, which is vital for maintaining trust between clients and their lawyers.

The attorney-client privilege is a fundamental principle that underpins the right to legal representation and the fairness of criminal proceedings, the court said.

It said the police investigators had no legal basis for requiring Advocate Setlojoane to hand over his client’s funds paid as fees.

To compel him to become an accomplice against his own client by disclosing privileged communications or assisting in the prosecution of that client would strike at the very heart of the faithful discharge of a lawyer’s ethical duties, the court found.

It said even if he were to ultimately fail on the merits before the High Court on remittal, his pursuit of the appeal has undoubtedly served the public interest by elucidating the scope and application of the lawyer-client privilege within our legal system.

Staff Reporter

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Judge grills prisons boss

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THE chairman of a commission of enquiry investigating the escape of prisoners in Maseru last year has issued a damning assessment of the Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) boss’ leadership skills.

Justice Realeboha Mathaba grilled Mating Nkakala over the lack of a strategic plan for the LCS.

He said the Lesotho Correctional Service Act mandates the commissioner to draft policies for the organisation.

Nkakala responded by saying they were on the verge of engaging a consultant to help draw up strategies for the LCS.

“Normally consultants do not do everything, they just facilitate, meaning you have to have a vision as a leader,” Justice Mathaba said.

He also asked Nkakala about how long the institution has been operating without a clear strategic plan and policies and he answered saying the last time it was done was in 2010.

“Meaning for the past 14 years the institution has been operating without any direction,” Justice Mathaba said.

Nkakala admitted that it has been 14 years without a strategic plan.

Justice Mathaba again asked Nkakala if he had received any training before getting into high office.

“Not only you but other officers who help you. Did you get any training?”

Nkakala said their wish is for every officer to get training and attend workshops on their promotion to the next rank.

“But, due to budget constraints, we cannot get such training,” Nkakala said.

Justice Mathaba said most of the problems that Nkakala had mentioned show that there is lack of leadership and teamwork.

“It is evident that there is no teamwork between you and your senior officers,” he said.

Nkakala also conceded that there are divisions among the staff with some supporting him while others do not.

He said there are some officers who work well with him, “even though it is not everyone who supports me”.

Justice Mathaba said Nkakala should have been equipped with the necessary skills to lead the institution.

“I am still on the issue of how capacitated you are in leading the institution,” he said.

He said Nkakala is still leading the institution by using the assistant commissioner’s tactics and principles as he never received any training after being promoted.

“Did you get any training that equipped you with the leadership skills while still an assistant commissioner?”

Nkakala said he recalled attending a course.

Justice Mathaba then said based on Nkakala’s evidence, he sees that there is no teamwork at the institution’s leadership.

Nkheli Liphoto

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