He was a soldier once…and young

The life story of Leribe’s Resident Magistrate Tšeliso Bale

MATHATISI SEBUSI

True to the ancient proverb ‘Like father like son’ and growing under the guidance of his father who served in the military, Magistrate Tšeliso Bale has seen himself in the same line of work – and believes it is nothing but fate.His disciplinarian father invested morals, discipline and determination in him, so much that he sees being a disciplined, responsible and hardworking citizen as standard principles of life.Bale was born and raised at Ha ‘Mamathe, Berea, in 1971; brought up by his soldier father, David Phenya Bale, and mother Theresia Matšeliso Bale, a teacher.

Being raised by a strict father and spending most of his childhood at the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) barracks until late in the 1973 when his father left the army, Bale was the most disciplined and organized among his peers.The family moved to Upper Thamae, in Maseru, after his father left the army where the family resided until 1980 when they relocated to Mohalalitoe.Bale currently is resident at Ha Ramonaheng Teyateyaneng, in Berea, and is widely considered one of the most hard working Resident Magistrates in the country.

He began his primary schooling at the Catholic Church’s St Bernadette Primary School from 1976 to 1982 and pursued his high school education at ‘Mabathoana High School from 1983 to 1987 where he passed his Form E with a Second Class pass. He later supplemented and got a First Class pass.His father and uncle who were both disciplinarians, raised and mentored him to be one of them and surely they delivered. He was then enrolled taekwondo training, which Bale believes enhanced his discipline abilities.Bale says, the magistrate Bale we see now, is the result of the strict upbringing he experienced from his parents and believes that being a magistrate is a calling which his parents prepared him for at tender age.

He says growing up he believed a call, that he was destined to become a Catholic priest considering his level of discipline, but fate had something different in store for him.He loved sports since he was in high school and used to play almost every sport with enjoyment and determination.After high School, Bale did not go straight to tertiary education level but started being active in youth societies and movements including Young Christian Students (YCS). He said their concern during that time as youth of the country that was under military governance was free quality education in Lesotho.His influence in politics as part of youth movements was seen and witnessed by many.

Bale continues that growing up in a country that was politically polarized and under a military regime, they were concerned as the youth of the country as to what would happen to the country the day returned to the barracks – therefore, they worked hard to depolarize youths for them to view politics in a different way. For them to go into politics with more understanding and be aware of challenges such as fighting hunger and poverty.

He said the movement he worked for was registered as an NGO and was paying very well. His smartness saw him representing local youths in internationally in countries like Hong Kong, Uganda and Australia among others.After playing his part in the youth movement, Bale wanted so bad to go back to school to further his education, and in 1992 he joined the LDF, considering he would get a chance to purse his studies and take the law route.

Bale received a lot of recognition and support from his then bosses who identified his potential to study and encouraged him to further his studies. He then enrolled with the National University of Lesotho to study law.He chose to pursue law after being made aware of the shortage of the skill in the LDF.From his service in the LDF, Bale says he has learned a lot of life skills but most importantly discipline and being organized at all times, further stating that in the army they were taught everything – beginning with how to walk, how to eat and how to conduct themselves. He articulated that all skills he learned from the force enables him to do everything almost to perfection.

In the army he was also armed with problem solving skills, endurance and how to think on his feet. He states that because of the training he received from the LDF, he does not give up easily when faced with challenges and works everything to perfection or until he gets results desired by him.During his service in the force, Bale worked as a foot-soldier   and was later transferred to Military Intelligence. And earning his qualification as a lawyer he worked for LDF’s Directorate of Legal Services.

This appointment as a qualified lawyer was a challenge on its own as it mostly worked on disciplining soldiers, including his squad-mates.He said he was working as a prosecutor and had to apply the law as fairly as possible despite who was facing the wrath of the law. He had to make hard decisions, including recommending that a soldier be relieved of his duties in the military – considering illegal or dangerous acts they might have committed, or those they neglected to do.

Bale says he started experiencing the fair application of the law regardless of who a person is while he was still a soldier. And that is because of his excellent skills and work performance, he was asked by his then boss, Colonel Maaparankoe Mahao – who was later promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General before he was assassinated by fellow soldiers – to help in drafting the LDF education policy.Problem solving skill is among the skills that he prides himself with and notes he has in the past saved the LDF around M50 000 by standing in as an interpreter in a case that had hit a snag due to communication barriers.

He left the LDF as Private Bale but a full qualified lawyer to join the judiciary as a 2nd Class Magistrate in 2003 working mostly in the Maseru district, but also filled in in other districts that had a shortage of magistrates around the country. He has worked in Botha-Bothe and Thaba-Tseka among other districts.In 2005 he was promoted to 1st Class Magistrate. After his appointment, he was tasked to ensure the operation of the magistrate court at Ha Mohale, which has not been operational since 1995 when the court was built to 2007 when he was assigned to it.

He took the assignment readily and ensured that the court operates on the same year of the assignment. He says there were other magistrates that were asked to carry the same assignment but were not willing.The assignment was during the judicial administration of Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla, and after ensuring that the court was operational the same year. He left Ha Mohale and was promoted to Resident Magistrate – a position he holds to date.

Bale has been a resident magistrate for 15 years and is stationed in Leribe district. He says the position means that he oversees operations of all courts in the Leribe.His job includes supervising all magistrates under him in the district, oversee all operations at the courts in the district, including local and central courts. He is a district accounting officer, administrator and discipline of staff and logistics and structures are his responsibilities.

He prides himself in water tight cases he has worked on, stating that of all cases that he has handled, 90 percent of them passes the test; articulating that even if they can be appealed his judgment is hardly reversed.Bale argues that his judgements pass the test so that even if an appeal is lodged most are hard to be manipulated.The magistrate has been recognized for his hard work.

In 2015 he won Judiciary awards meant to honour men in this industry and won a price as the best judiciary officer.He also represented the Judiciary in different forums that were held internationally in countries including Australia where discussions were around policies and conventions to control and bring a stop to human trafficking and smuggling across different countries.In 2008 he went to a school of excellence in Uganda where he learned trial advocacy. He also has post graduate diploma in labour law.Apart from his responsibilities in the judiciary, Bale has people’s interests at heart. He believes that people should strive for excellence and humanity and also service the public the best way they can.

His favourite quote is “If I choose to be served, will I choose to be served by me” and say with the quote he believes that if people can put themselves in other people’s shoes, humanity, compassion, love and peace will be all that we experience.On his spare time, Bale writes articles, is a farmer and a network marketer. He is also a member of Red Cross Society. And as hard working and disciplined as he is, he values staff welfare and believes that happy people are more productive.

Outstanding cases in the courts of law are a big concern to him. He believes that public servants are lazy and have no determination to do they work effectively.He says the entire system has been poisoned, and there is a need for a revamp starting from educational institutions, public offices and the private sector.Bale says there is need for order and revision of entry requirement at every institution to ensure that people hired will indeed deliver as expected of them.

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