An old saying within the corridors of palaces of justice across the globe goes that ‘A young, lady lawyer wins with her looks; an old one needs a strong case.’ But from a small village in Mafeteng to winning divorce cases left, right, and centre and making waves through social media, Advocate ‘Makopi Lesaane has demystified the myth.
Advocate Lesaane is a qualified lawyer who began her primary education at Samaria Primary School then went to Tšakholo High School for her secondary education. Upon obtaining a First Class with an A in the English language in her COSC examination, she then proceeded to the National University of Lesotho(NUL) whereat she studied Law – which she passed with merit. Lesaane was enthused to study law by a trip they had in high school to the High Court of Lesotho.
“I was fascinated by the beauty of women lawyers in their garb, you would respect them just by their attire and appearance. They looked educated and that was when I actually started having a passion to study law and become a lawyer. Sometimes still in high school, former Tšakholo students who were now leading their studies at the NUL would bring us career guidance material every year, and I would fall in love with law over and over again,” she reveals.
Lesaane says her passion for law was never dampened by people who believed and told her that law is difficult, and has a complicated jargon that she might fail to understand. She says she studied law because she wanted to help the helpless and to be people’s problem solver. She further notes that the fulfilment she gets from helping people in need is priceless and precious to her. A human rights defender Lesaane she has always been, she really wanted the opportunity to indulge professionally to help people. She grew up in a loving home with a supportive family who believed in her dreams. She says that both her parents loved and respected what she does hence she has confidence and believes in herself.
In life, most people believe women are not able to handle such huge responsibilities as being a lawyer or a businesswoman, but she says she is yet to prove women are capable of doing wonders. Lesaane states that being a lawyer is a very tough job but doable at the same time. Since practicing, she reveals that she has come across a number of cases where extramarital affairs have led to the deaths of many people because they become involved without respecting their spouses.
She stays that divorce cases are very tricky, dramatic, and painful at the same time, further articulating that they need someone with a backbone as a lawyer and as a person. And that abuse people are subjected to, leading to legal separation, is very inhumane – to a person to whom one had expressed undying love. “When clients tell you how they are treated in their marriages, you will think it is just a movie, that no one goes through that. They eventually say they would rather get out alive and the only way to do so is divorcing,” she clarifies. She further states that people enter marriages for the wrong reasons such as pregnancy, and wanes that this is always a recipe for divorce.
Advocate Lesaane continues that other people enter into marriages for money as some people would marry a miner, a nurse or an accountant thinking they will have millions and when they find out that it is the other way around, they start with shenanigans which lead to divorces. In many cases she has worked on, adultery is on the top list of causes of divorces. There are still other reasons such as unreasonable behaviours, desertion even separation but more of her clients’ cases result from adultery. She says it is not a secret that in this country cheating is perceived as a norm.
Lesaane says that being a lawyer at her age was very challenging stating that most people were uncomfortable to open up to her when working on their cases. She says they believed that a 29-year-old is too young to listen to major marital problems they have. “I remember someone had referred a client to me who wanted a divorce. The client, a male, refused and said he wouldn’t share his experiences with me because I was young. Also being a woman makes people think you are incompetent and lack knowledge about certain laws or even difficulties people go through.
Nevertheless, even after facing those obstacles there are some clients who appreciate me being a young woman lawyer,” she says. “As a lawyer, you need confidence even if you have a hopeless case. When a client prefers another lawyer to represent them for the reason that I am a woman, kills my self-esteem and I always feel disrespected because what a male lawyer can do, I can also do. Most clients who treat us women unfairly are Basotho from the highlands where cultural beliefs are still prioritized. They think less of women and still think a man can do better that a woman and they normally get a shock of their lives when I win these cases,” she says.
According to the layer, clients sometimes think that she is incapable of doing her job well especially when some cases involve the police. She says that with the bad record police have on treating people badly, they often say she might be scared to face the police and this would jeopardise their cases but has since proved them wrong. She says they work with the police most of the time on criminal cases, as they know how they handle people in custody, further stating that people fear police and think that she is also terrified by them, which is not true.
Lesaana says she is proud that she is part of the lawyers who fought and managed to decrease the rate of police brutality which was escalating. With the nation still having patriarchal societies that disregard the status of women, Lesaane says that most law firms do not hire women because they believe men do a better job than women. “I remember one law firm owner saying he does not hire women because they fail to balance home and office duties. Women are built to run a home more that office affairs so they believe if they hire more of us, their companies will fall because we will always rush home to take care of our families,” she recalls.
She admits that it is indeed difficult to balance both home duties and office affairs for her because she gives her work duties an undivided attention. She enjoys working on her cases more that doing household chores. She wears many hats. And among them, she is a businesswoman who has ventured into commercial agriculture and has a logistic company that works across the country and beyond its borders.Growing up in a family of farmers and having been surrounded by a community of farmers, ploughing is vital to her. Her community hardly buys fruits and vegetables from supermarkets because they almost have everything that can be planted in the country.
Lesaane respected and saw the true importance of agriculture when Covid-19 hit the country. She says they had enough to plough in time, they lacked nothing at home compared to a lot of people who were struggling to make ends meets and facing high food prices and food scarcity. “I love being independent and making my own money. I also love trucks and now I own a logistics company. It also operates and brings in money which is something I love; we all love money.With my truck, I provide transport within Lesotho and outside. We only started this year and I am hoping to grow and have a fleet.”