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Legal fraternity mourns “intelligent” Justice Nomngcongo

by Lesotho Times
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Mohalenyane Phakela

MEMBERS of Lesotho’s legal fraternity have described the late High Court judge, Thamsanqa Nomngcongo, as an intelligent man who had exceptional command of the law.

Justice Nomngcongo died on 2 September2021 at Maseru Private Hospital after a short illness.

He was 68.

The judiciary’s public relations officer, Mabohlokoa Mapikitla, said the late judge will be buried tomorrow in Maseru. His funeral service will be held at the Makhoakhoeng Community Grounds, near his Ha-Abia home.

Justice Nomngcongo served on the High Court bench from 2002 until his death.

The magistracy and the Law Society of Lesotho this week described him as an icon who will be remembered for his intelligence and the manner in which he adjudicated cases.

Central region Chief Magistrate, ‘Matankiso Nthunya, worked with the late judge from 1996 to 2002, when he was elevated to the High Court. Chief Magistrate Nthunya told the Lesotho Times Justice Nomngcongo was the best boss she ever had.

“Thami, as we affectionately called him, will always be remembered for his intelligence,” Chief Magistrate Nthunya said on behalf of the magistracy.

“His command of the law was exceptional. He was a true Mothepu (a Xhosa tribe from Quthing) whose stubbornness assisted him to stick to the law when adjudicating cases. He could never be swayed by public opinion or anyone’s influence.

“When I joined the magistracy in 1996, he was already a Senior Resident Magistrate whom I learned so much from. Around 1998 he acted as the Chief Magistrate. At the time there was only one Chief Magistrate unlike now when there are three. He was the best boss whom no one had any complaints about. He made our work enjoyable.

“We were not happy when he was not appointed the substantive Chief Magistrate. However, we felt that he deserved the recognition when he was eventually appointed a High Court judge. Thami was intelligent.”

Law Society of Lesotho secretary general, Advocate Nthati Pheku, said Justice Nomngcongo’s death was a huge loss to the entire judiciary.

“Justice Nomngcongo was one of the most senior judges of the High Court. His passing comes shortly after the judiciary also lost Justices Lebohang Molete and Lisebo Chaka-Makhooane in 2020.

“The judiciary has lost one of the most prominent judges who has served on the bench for a very long time and has contributed immensely to the jurisprudence of the judiciary,” Adv Pheku said.

Justice Nomngcongo was born on 15 March 1953 in Mokanametsong, Quthing. He did his primary education at Villa Maria before completing his Form E at Eagle’s Peak in Qacha’s Nek.

In 1971, he enrolled for law studies with the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland (now National University of Lesotho). Justice Nomngcongo then went to Edinburgh University, in Scotland, for two years until 1976 before returning to Lesotho for his final year in 1977. He graduated with a Bachelor of   Laws (LLB) degree.

Upon graduation, Justice Nomngcongo was immediately employed by the government’s Law Office where he worked in the registry department. Shortly afterwards, he went into private practice, working for Masoabi and Associates.

In 1979 he was appointed magistrate and worked in different districts across the country.

After being appointed High Court judge in 2002, Justice Nomngcongo underwent various trainings both in and outside the country to enhance his skills.

Among other tasks and posts, he presided over the army Court Martial and also served as a board member of the Vaal University of Technology in South Africa.

Justice Nomngcongo is survived by his wife, four sons and four grandchildren.

The late judge hogged the limelight when he granted former First Lady, ‘Maesaiah Thabane bail in July last year.

While social media was abuzz with opinions that Ms Thabane did not deserve bail, Justice Nomngcongo set her free on the grounds that the Director of Public Prosecutions, Hlalefang Motinyane, did not oppose bail. Instead, it was Deputy Police Commissioner Paseka Mokete and other witnesses who had frantically opposed bail. He said that was irregular.

Justice Nomngcongo ruled that DCP Mokete had no business in opposing bail. He also said DCP Mokete and other witnesses’ affidavits opposing bail were full of hearsay. He said they did not provide any substantive evidence linking ‘Maesaiah and her husband, former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, to the 14 June 2017 murder of the latter’s ex-wife, Lipolelo.

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