Reflections as NUL turns 79: Varsity rot stink cries out for commission of inquiry


Lesotho this year celebrated a rare milestone, the bicentennial anniversary of the founding of the Basotho nation. Within this the nation’s oldest tertiary institution, the Roma-based National University of Lesotho (NUL) celebrates its 79th year in existence since its origins in April 1945.

Sadly, prevalence of cases of sex for grades, lack of consequence management for errant staff and general malaise are the accusations leveled against the National University of Lesotho (NUL). Public Eye got wind of rising concerns about alleged corruption and unethical conduct which now seems institutionalized after decades of “seeing no evil and hearing no evil” at the country’s oldest and most prized institution of higher learning, NUL.

Public Eye sat down with Advocate Ndumo, an experienced lecturer at the institution who also happens to have lived on campus from a tender age to get an insider’s view on the goings-on at NUL. Advocate Mothepa Ndumo, who is also an alumnus of NUL, University of Cape Town and University of Namibia, is a Pension Law Scholar in the Faculty of Law registered for a PhD focusing on the domestic investment of pension funds, a Thomas Psychometrics Practitioner, an Industrial Sociologist and Certified Executive and Leadership Coach.

She is the Founder & CEO of the Tataiso-Bhotani Group which has interests in corporate training, accredited coaching and mentorship and film, tv series, talk shows and publishing across multimedia platforms. Her passions are Lesotho, Afrika, indigenous systems of governance, history, young people and she is a lover of animals and of The Creator.

Below are the questions Public Eye posed. She answered most of them in the following detailed interview conducted earlier this week. However, she promised to answer any of the outstanding questions and more in future.

1. Describe the state of NUL as a historically popular institution of higher learning in the region and Africa at large.

2. What really went wrong and when can you trace the rot to?

3. Since the time of the late Prof Ogunrinade as VC, more than 10 years ago, there has always been an uneasy relationship between the administration and especially the vice chancellor and the rest. One recalls the famous quote by Prof Ogunrinade “The dogs can bark but the chariot moves on…” Would we say people who are accusing NUL administrators of not doing enough are literally “barking up the wrong tree”.

4. The NUL Innovation Hub has done commendable work in terms of relevant research and continues to do so. Is this the much needed silver lining in the sorry tale of NUL’s failures?

5. What possible solutions would you suggest to arrest the alleged decay at this revered institution of higher learning?

6. Speak to the quality of graduates being produced. Are you satisfied? If not, what could be the problem?

7. What’s your opinion on the new secondary schools curriculum? Given students are not subject to any exams from the time they leave primary school till they sit the exam to leave high school into tertiary. Are the students prepared enough to tackle varsity courses?

8. To what extent would you say political meddling plays a part in the dysfunctional trends at NUL?

9. What, in your view, are the possible solutions?

Before we begin, a few disclaimers are necessary to give your readers some much-needed background and context before I answer some of your questions.


I have embarked on a process of launching several lawsuits against the National University of Lesotho (NUL) and its various offices and officers.

The Labour Code Order 1992, as amended, grants me the right to sue my current employer while, happily or unhappily, ensconced on that storied campus. Looking at the history of the institution, it is indeed a storied one starting on the 8th of April 1945 as the Catholic University College to the present day.

NUL is not an island; it is sewn into the fabric of our society and, like any institution in Lesotho, it is simply a microcosm of our Kingdom. In addition, external, regional, continental, and global developments will filter their way through to our storied campus and affect certain aspects of operations, academic affairs, interpersonal relationships, leadership and, most critically, the students.

NUL since Independence

We cannot possibly exhaust all these dynamics in one interview so please allow me to focus on one feature of the NUL that dovetails perfectly with what has been transpiring in our country since we attained our independence in 1966.

I propose to go that far back, and you will perhaps understand why.

What some may not know about me is that I grew up on that campus as a toddler whose parents were Anglican Church University chaplains and full-time students. I am told that I was a student at the NULIS nursery.

For sure, I do have flashbacks and solid memories of a Halloween trick or treating night gone wrong in the staff village because of a dog. I do remember swimming in the pool reserved for staff and their families. I do have flashes of myself in a swimming costume walking with a diverse cast consisting of all races and cultures.

It was quite the cosmopolitan campus due to the broader regional and global dynamics marked by the fight against apartheid in South Africa, the banning of the liberation movements and the exiling of ANC and PAC activists of all types and stripes.

Father Lapsley

I lived in the same house and yard as well-regarded anti-apartheid activist and cleric, Father Michael Lapsley. My mom is fond of telling us that we used to call him “Fama Michael”. I do believe that Father Lapsley still has a connection to the NUL and gave a talk recently on the campus (unfortunately I was indisposed and was not even aware that he had paid us a visit).

You see, Father Lapsley is a tireless campaigner for healing, truth, accountability, forgiveness, and reconciliation all over the world. This is important to highlight from the onset. I may come across as harsh and combative but, ultimately, traumatized since we fought Afrikaner mendacity and betrayal and then subsequently British and Afrikaner collusion that saw us losing our land to the Republic of South Africa, this country needs healing. Nowhere is this urgent need more pronounced than on the NUL campus which, as I have already emphasized, is merely a microcosm of Lesotho as a whole.

Before we sing kumbaya over a bonfire; before we toast those marshmallows and make Smores, FIRST we need TRUTH and ACCOUNTABILITY.

And those are the features that are acutely lacking in Lesotho as a whole and why we are HERE. HERE is not holy at all, HERE is ugly.

Our bicentennial year should not be about celebrating hoaxes, fakery, and pretence. We have done that long enough and this starts in families, fans out into our communities and infects the body politic and public institutions like NUL.

To my mind, we would have won, in our 200th year, if we can begin with elementaries like, admitting that we are thoroughly broken.

But why should this be a source of shame?

We are! We should be! Look at our history good people, it is replete with trauma: colonial mendacity, the policy of benign neglect adopted quite intentionally by the British to render us chattels for the exploding mining industry in pre-Union RSA, brainwashing us into hating ourselves and our authentically constructed institutions of spirituality, governance, social engineering, science (sethepu was nothing but social engineering science in its purest form) and other ways of thinking, dialoguing and being.

Saying that, owning that should not imply that I now hate the Brits.

Facing truth eyeball to eyeball

This is what we fail to understand: Jesus Christ was not joking around when He proclaimed that we shall know the truth and that this would set us free.

We, Basotho, fear the truth like we would fear an alien apocalypse. In fact, we fear it so much that we hate purveyors of the truth. Why? I suppose the truth makes its own demands of the hearer; the truth requires honest self-reflection, admitting weaknesses (Gee, who wants THAT? We are all angels hakere? We do no wrong!) AND, even more importantly, repenting, accounting, redressing, and journeying on a path that eschews previous, toxic ways of thinking, dialoguing, and doing.

Dialogue is an internal process that finds express, inter alia, externally. What a man thinketh, a man shall sayeth…listen carefully and for a long enough period and ye shall soon intuit who and what a man is.

Obviously, we live in a society where sociopaths and others in those WhatsApp groups also grace us with their presence and spirit of deception…with those ones you must have discernment of the highest order otherwise they shall eat you alive.

So, yes, we have a very tenuous relationship with truth telling and this therefore creates a society of cowered, suppressed would-be truthtellers.

And yet, these people are a gift to us if we can, for once, move beyond the “offence” of being confronted with the truth.

The truth is not always delivered elegantly but the inelegance of the delivery should not detract from its validity and the demands that it makes of all of us.

Moral rot

Lesotho is a morally and ethically degenerate country. There, I said it.

NUL is where moral degeneration, as displayed in our body politic, families, communities and religious institutions is fully exhibited. This is a campus where sex-for-academic-and-career-favours is one of the unwritten perks of the job, especially the job of being an academic.

Historically, and primarily, this unwritten perk, is facilitated by a buddy-buddy wink-wink culture that can be easily sketched from the office of the Vice-Chancellor (regardless of the identity of its occupant) all the way down to a department of the smallest Faculty of the University.

This buddy-buddy wink-wink is reinforced by a culture of silence and looking the way because, well, it’s not my daughter, it’s not my son hakere?

And that is where you are wrong.

According to our pure Sesotho culture as practiced by our forefathers and foremothers, these are all our children regardless of whether they are from our bellies or not. It takes a village, doesn’t it? Or shouldn’t it? We have lost our authentic Sotho moral and ethical fibre, and we wonder why we are so broken? Colonialism and post-1966 tore our authentic identity asunder; we were dismembered, torn from limb to limb, it was an act of shocking violence implemented in some of the most seemingly innocuous ways.

Victim shamming rife

At a broader societal level these sub-cultures we see at NUL are birthed by TOXIC PATRIARCHY or TOXIC MASCULINITY. By prefacing patriarachy and masculinity with the word “toxic” logically implies that there is an opposite energy that would render the status quo nugatory. Wouldn’t it? But the male gender sees red as soon as you put that preface in there.

Well, bo-Ntate, you have earned this word by designing systems that favour your narrow interests and, well, ye shall judge by the fruits, shan’t you? What are the fruits? Rape, incest, domestic violence, quid pro quo sexual harassment rampant in workplaces and political offices of all types and stripes. Hakere?

So, why do we cry when we are now supposed to partake of this bitterly poisonous fruit that we have been painstakingly cultivating for decades?

Lesotho is a society currently seized with a diabolical debate about whether an inebriated woman at a posh Maseru restaurant deserved to be raped or, was, in fact, raped. She is called all kinds of demeaning names by mostly male commentators all over social media. This all discombobulates me.

Since I was a little girl on that NUL campus attending the NULIS nursery, one of the flashbacks is of drunken men on the Roma campus! I am yet to see a debate about whether those men deserve to be raped or otherwise interfered with physically.

Men still stagger home in drunken stupors (well, if they are of the posh variety, they drive home drunk without a care for any potential or actual victims of their selfish, entitled, unaccountable behaviour towards others).

And these men stagger or drunk drive home with the full expectation that they will deposit themselves into their beds to then nurse their hangovers the next day. Hakere?

Why should a woman not stagger home in a drunken stupor and not be violated in her person? What gives anyone else outside of this inebriated woman, the right to violate her? The victim shaming in Lesotho is now a national hobby that must have a dedicated public holiday. Nobody ever holds these male perpetrators in contempt…it doesn’t take rocket science to figure this one out. Why would other males condemn one of their own? Those who do, are routinely bashed as SIMPS.

This is on full display at NUL.

Can’t scandalize the dead

There is a saying that we should refrain from speaking ill of the dead. I shall not speak ill of the former and deceased Vice Chancellor, Professor A.F. Ogunrinade, but I shall not whitewash his legacy either.

My job as an Assistant Lecturer in the Faculty of Law was my first real job. I was a baby of the Faculty back in January 2002 when I joined my former lecturers, among them, Professor Nqosa Leuta Mahao, the leader of the Basotho Action Party and now a Minister in the Fruit Salad Government led by the Revolution for Prosperity and Associate Professor Kananelo Mosito, the current Pro-Vice Chancellor.

I was wide-eyed, completely naive as to the workings of the “real world” and workplace politics.

I believed all the high-sounding theories I had absorbed in my Political Science lectures led by Dr Ponts’o Sekatle and retired Professor Kopano Makoa not to mention Father Khutlang who had taught me a class in Philosophy.

One of the things that they do not teach you at Harvard Law School is just how hypocritical the world truly is and how these high-sounding theories that we pass with flying colours have no bearing whatsoever when the dolls get to dance and there is blood on the dancefloor.

To my utter shock and horror, during Professor Ogunrinade’s tenure, a group of students, consisting of males and females from Lesotho and our neighbouring countries put together a petition which was delivered by their nominated representatives to the Dean of the Faculty, then the retired Advocate ‘Mats’oana Fanana.

Their verbal and written entreaties fingered an expatriate academic in the Faculty of Law who had been running something akin to a harem of girls whom, apparently, he had befriended since they were First Year students.

The transaction included them having sleepovers at his house in the NUL Staff Village, drinking galore and getting exam questions from this man every year well in advance to prepare themselves for courses they had not bothered much to study for throughout the year.

Because we had a very strong, no-nonsense Dean in Advocate Fanana, Professor Ogunrinade’s hand was forced to institute a Commission of Inquiry otherwise the buddy-buddy wink-wink system would have kicked in at Faculty-level had our Dean been a man.

My exam question paper was taken from my hand, in my office by this expatriate lecturer abusing his power as a Head of Department, contrary to the decision taken by the department that, to curb the leakage of examination papers, each lecturer should directly liaise with the Academic Office.

Despite this clear departmental and faculty-wide decision, minuted somewhere, this gentleman had the gumption to come to my office to demand the papers under the guise of “I am the HOD, and I need to check for quality control purposes.”

I handed them over to him and he did his rounds to my colleagues in his department and faithfully handed them over to his girl squad waiting in great anticipation, I can imagine.

This squad of Mean Girls (yes, apparently, they were mean, arrogant, and quite good looking and they knew it!) would taunt their classmates by saying, over the years, “Halala, we don’t do much really, we are cruising through this LLB guys and girls, you carry on studying, cross-nighting, we get hooked up by our friend Mr X”. The fifth and final year of the LLB is not a joke and eventually the ethically and morally inclined students, male and female, decided to finally report this behaviour they had been subjected to for four solid years already.

Digging out dirt

The Commission of Inquiry was chaired by none other than our Minister of Education, Professor Ntoi Rapapa who was then a well-regarded senior scientist in the Faculty of Science and Technology (FOST) and a man known for keeping very sober habits.

One of the Commissioners working with Professor Rapapa was the retired scholar of note, Professor ‘Mawetsi Moloi. It was a three-person Commission of Inquiry, and it conducted thorough investigations and made clear recommendations.

Heads were supposed to roll.

But the only heads that rolled were those of the Mean Girls (who was going to protect them? Who was their buddy when the cookie had finally crumbled? Think about it).

The lecturer walked off scott-free and behaved quite arrogantly and entitled (yes, well, he was entitled to the buddy-buddy wink-wink system) and my name was mentioned somewhere in a shebeen I hear as being one of “those bitter, angry, jealous, sex-starved spinsters” by the lecturer and the Mean Girls.

The Mean Girls were so hopelessly naive they still imagined that they were not part of this toxic patriarchy club. We were so sick that we even renewed his contract which he arrogantly declined…because he was joining a South African university, and he left the Mean Girls to fend for themselves.

Professor Ogunrinade simply sat on the report and did nothing! That is his legacy.

Sex for grades

It is year 2024 and the situation has degenerated to even more shocking levels to a point where male students allegedly now boldly enter sex-for-marks arrangements with female lecturers.

Toxic patriarchy has a faithful companion in toxic matriarchy ladies and gentlemen, I am not apologist for toxic, poisonous females, I know them only too well and some of my biggest wounds on planet earth as a 47-year-old female have been inflicted by women.

Another male lecturer, a Mosotho this time, also routinely did the most despicable things to female students and resigned just before he could account for his misdeeds carried out over years.

He walked away with a NUL pension, Basotho taxpayers funded his escape after he had violated tens and tens of young Basotho women. But, who cares, right?

We rape drunk females, we rape babies, we rape grannies, we rape at will.

We can have lofty policy instruments, centres and institutes, infrastructure, the NUL Innovation Hub all day everyday and issue glowing press releases but we are hypocrites of the highest order when we let this rot abide and destroy the minds and hearts of Basotho girls and boys, future men and women hoping, that broken souls are going to implement our equally lofty NSDPs and Vision 2020s and what-not.

We are literally just deluding ourselves and for once, we should be honest and stop asking this question that never ever fails to annoy me, “Basotho, re louoe ke mang?” “Who has bewitched us?” Look in the mirror my guy, look in the mirror my girl. U itoile. You have bewitched yourself. Happily, you can decide to stop the sorcery and heal your broken pieces and glue them back together with God’s Almighty and Ever-Present Help.

In every single way possible, NUL is a rotten, unaccountable public institution that is in desperate need of a thoroughgoing Commission of Inquiry going back to 1990, at least.

The lack of accountability, antiquated systems (I cannot even download my own payslip or sign for annual or any leave Basotho!), the introduction of toxic partisan politics into the Students Union (oh my, whose terrible idea was that?

We adults, at the national level can’t even get our act together with Fruit Salad governments, motions of no confidence every few months, why in the world would we want this poison to be institutionalized at NUL?

Well, me I say, Boun Appetit!

Probe fiefdom

The NUL is a public institution that should be FULLY accountable to Basotho and all those who inject their time, energy, and material resources such as funding.

Despite its so-called “autonomy”, at the end of the day, it is accountable to this nation and to God.

I am seeking to lobby Basotho and the RFP-led government to institute a thoroughgoing Commission of Inquiry into this public institution which has now become a fiefdom of narrow political interests and is being run to serve those narrow interests.

More than anything, and this is the hard work that those in need of healing seek to assiduously avoid…we need re-membering (for our broken limbs to be put back together, to be re-assembled and I am talking spiritually, psychologically in tandem with physical re-assembly).

And that is what we want to run away from, the reality that this nation needs to repent and turn back from these evil ways of thinking, dialoguing, and doing back to the God of King Moshoeshoe 1, Prophetess ‘MaNtsopa Makhetha, Chief Mohlomi and many others who came before us.

We need re-minding (for our mindsets to be re-assembled with fresh, high-energy thoughts). We need re-configuration and to eat the way our ancestors used to eat…look at us, busy with fried chips and Russian sausages all over the place, inviting cancers with every bite.

For students, female and male, we need service providers external to NUL and chosen in open, transparent competition to protect them via, for example, a dedicated whistleblower line (there should be zero repercussions for reporting a sociopath masquerading as an academic); psychotherapists and other helping professionals of a number appropriate enough to serve a student body that is now over 10 000 students.

We need more recreational activities and facilities and to install lights all over that campus and upgrade the facilities insofar as students are concerned. Academics who abuse their positions of power and authority must be taken to task; the buddy-buddy wink-wink system must die, it must fall.

Academics who are doing their work and doing it using unorthodox innovative means must be left alone and students must not be used by the authorities to victimize lecturers who are deemed “different”.

There is an air of arrogance permeating that campus in all faculties and departments due to this lack of accountability. It is time for all to be reminded that they are there to serve Basotho and not the other way round.

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