Lesotho Times

The law is an ass

Scrutator is no legal fundi and has no reason to pretend to be one.
But when she read a recent judgment in a murder case she was flummoxed.
This week Justice Tšeliso Monapathi, the country’s most senior judge after the Chief Justice, ruled that a man who killed a man he caught doing some devious “mischief” with his wife should be jailed for eight years.
It’s a long story but due to lack of space Scrutator will chop it down to its salient points.
2010 was 10 days old when Rethabile Mphahama walked into Room Two at Molemo Guest House, to find his half-naked wife sitting atop of Tanki Bulane.
Bulane was not only boss to Mphahama’s wife in the police force but the two families were neighbours.
Sometimes they had parties together and Mphahama’s wife couldn’t stop praising Bulane as such a marvelous boss.
Yet little did Mphahama know that his wife’s lavish praises for Bulane were informed by more than just what happened during office hours.
That is why Mphahama told the court he was shocked to find that Bulane and his wife were about to fornicate when he entered Room Two at Molemo Guest House on January 10.
A fight then ensued, ending with Mphahama fatally shooting Bulane dead.
Mphahama, a former-soldier-turned-teacher, was charged with Bulane’s murder.
Then on Monday this week Justice Monapathi handed down his judgment.
He said Mphahama must be locked up for eight years.
But what astounded Scrutator the most were comments the judge made in his judgment.
“To me the accused had a choice not to go to Room Number Two,” the judge said.
“He should have gone to the receptionist and asked her to call his wife.”
“In this world we live in people are curious and want to see and disaster follows,” the judge added.

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Scrutator was thunderstruck when she read those statements.
The judge is therefore saying that instead of barging into the room Mphahama should have stayed at the reception and politely asked to see his wife.
In other words the judge is saying Mphahama should have called his wife like she was attending a prayer session or a kitchen party.
Mphahama, so goes the logic here, should have called his wife and taken her home like nothing had happened.
Bulane too would have walked out of that guest house like nothing had happened.
And when they got to the Police Training College compound, where their families lived, life would have gotten back to normal.
Scrutator is neither a sociologist nor a psychologist but she knows that things don’t work that way.
This is a pathetic assessment of how the world works.
Sane people don’t behave in such a coy manner under such provocation and humiliation.
What drove Mphahama was anger and not “curiosity”.
You can be “curious” to know how lasagna tastes but  you should not to see what your partner is doing in a guest house room with a stranger.
To say that the man should have kept his cool when he knew that his wife was busy fornicating is to pretend that we live on another planet that is not earth.
Which normal person, either a man or a woman, would behave in such an abnormal way in such situations?
Is the judge saying Mphahama should have been angry and reasonable at the same time?
Scrutator genuinely believes that any man or woman who behaves in the manner the judge is suggesting should have their head examined.

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Nobody denies that a life was lost here but Scrutator still has a nagging feeling that eight years is a bit on the heavy side under the circumstances.
Remember not so long ago an unlicensed driver who was driving under the influence walked free after getting a few spanks for knocking a pedestrian dead.
The man was told to compensate his victim’s family.
There have been numerous cases in which murder suspects have seemed to have gotten off lightly.
Scrutator is not recommending that people must kill if they find their partners “eating out”.
Nor is she justifying the use of undue violence.
What she is against are suggestions that a human being should behave like an angel when they see things that hurt, demean, undermine, humiliate and provoke them.
We should not assign unnatural behaviour to human beings.
While at it, Scrutator would like to put it on record that she is far from pleased by how Mphahama’s defence team fared in this case.
Couldn’t they have argued that Mphahama was “temporarily insane” at the time of committing the crime?
That defence is no longer very popular in other parts of the world but Scrutator’s passing acquaintance with law tells her that it has been successfully used in this country.
There is lots of precedence for such crimes of passion.
Mphahama was obviously enraged at the discovery of his wife’s infidelity.
Who wouldn’t go berserk at such a sight?
Even the judge himself agreed that Mphahama was provoked.
It’s possible that at that time he was not thinking straight and therefore cannot be held accountable for his actions.
No man or woman sees their partner in such a compromising position and dances with joy.
Such scenes are maddening.
Yet to sustain that argument Mphahama’s lawyers should have remembered to send him for a psychiatric evaluation.
Scrutator doubts that this ever happened.
Would Mphahama have been going to jail for the equivalent of 10 and a half human pregnancies if he had the best lawyer money can get?
For the avoidance of doubt and to curtail gossip, which is one of our national hobbies, Scrutator would like to put it on record that she has nothing but respect for the judge.
She will therefore reject any insinuations to the contrary by those fond of seeing shadows where there are none.

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What has happened to the academics and professors of this country?
When there was a dispute over those compensatory seats in parliament we imported an expert to give us an interpretation.
Now we have slight problems with the voters’ roll and we have, once again, imported an expert to give us an opinion.
That this is happening at a time when we have a decent political science department at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) is mindboggling.
Don’t we ever get tired of importing things into this country?
Scrutator thought it was embarrassing enough that we import cabbages, eggs, beef, potatoes, maize-meal, tooth picks and a very long list of other things that we should be able to produce with a little effort.
We have become so obsessed with foreign things that we now even import foreigners to give us an opinion on our voters’ rolls.
Yet Scrutator does not blame the powers-that-be for their decisions are informed by the quality of academics we have in this country.
Poor scholarship is at the very root of what ails this country.
We seem to have mortgaged the future of this country to foreign think-tanks neglecting our generational mandate to radically transform what is wrong in our country.
We don’t have any think-tanks of our own.
The few who claim to be analysts or experts in anything are hopelessly shallow and just misdirected.

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I will leave you with this classic joke about the deviousness of politicians.
A bus full of MPs was driving from Qacha to Maseru when suddenly it swerved and crashed near some village.
The old chief rushed to the scene with his people.
They then dug a grave and buried all the MPs.
A few hours later the police came, saw the accident-damaged bus and asked the chief where the MPs had gone.
The chief said he had buried them.
“Were they all dead?” asked the police officer.
“Well, some of them said they weren’t, but you know how much politicians lie,” said the chief.

Lesotho Times

Lesotho's widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa.

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