Kalaki’s Korner: A Distinguished Judge

‘You’ll soon be finishing school,’ I said to Thoko. ‘What are you going to do with yourself? Follow your mother into the fashion business? Maybe you’ll become a famous fashion model?’
          ‘Famous is not good enough for me,’ said Thoko, ‘I want to be distinguished. I shall study law and pass with distinction. Then I’ll become a distinguished lawyer and earn lots of money by saving rich crooks from going to jail!’
          ‘And also saving your poor grandfather from his rich creditors,’ I suggested.
          ‘Here in Kalakiland,’ said Thoko, ‘have we ever had a distinguished female lawyer?’
          ‘Only one,’ I said, ‘and that was a long time ago, about a hundred years ago. Her name was Lilomba Chibebebe, and she became a very distinguished Chief Justice.’
          ‘She got right to the top?’
          ‘Oh yes. She was very ambitious!’
          ‘A hundred years ago! She must have been very clever to get into school in those days!’
          ‘That’s where you’re wrong,’ I laughed. ‘The first missionary schools couldn’t attract pupils in those early days, and had to take the children of outcasts, lepers, mad people and that sort of thing.
‘And was Lilomba the daughter of outcasts?’
‘Good gracious no, Lilomba was the daughter of a chief, and should have been educated as a princess to understand and practice the traditional culture.’
          ‘So why wasn’t she given a proper education?’
          ‘She was rather a fat and clumsy child, and couldn’t master the art of traditional dancing. She lacked the wit and elegance of a princess, so she was sent away in disgrace to one of the missionary schools.’
          ‘Where she distinguished herself?’
          ‘No, not at all, she was very slow and ponderous. But after repeating five times, she did finally manage to pass to go to the new university.’
          ‘Where she distinguished herself?’
          ‘No, all that came later. But she scratched a degree in law and became a lawyer.’
          ‘Where she distinguished herself?’
          ‘No, all that came later. Her rather slow and ponderous brain wasn’t up to the adversarial cut and thrust of a courtroom argument, so she never won a case.
          ‘So what did she do?’
          ‘The only thing left, she stood as a member of parliament.’
          ‘And did she win?’
          ‘Of course. She was the daughter of a chief, so all her tribesmen voted for her.’
          ‘And did she distinguish herself as a parliamentarian?’
          ‘She didn’t need to. As the daughter of a chief she was immediately appointed as a Minister of State.’
          ‘So was she able to distinguish herself as an active and decisive minister?’
          ‘Er, not exactly,’ I replied. ‘Her great moment in life was yet to come. She was a bit slow and cautious for making quick bold decisions. But she was the daughter of a chief, so something had to be done with her. So she was made Ambassador to Angleterre.’
          ‘Where she really excelled?’ suggested Thoko.
          ‘She made a bit of a name for herself,’ I chuckled. ‘She tried to steal the husband of the American Ambassador, and a bit of a scandal had to be hushed up, so she was quietly sent home. She had to be given another job quickly to avoid the impression that she was in disgrace. Then it was remembered that she had a law degree. So she was made a judge!’
          ‘Where at last she distinguished herself!’
          ‘Not immediately,’ I admitted. ‘There were some funny judgments. When a man was accused of stealing an elephant she declared that the elephant was too big and must have been the aggressor. So she jailed the elephant for stealing the man. When two women both claimed the same husband, she settled the matter by taking the husband for herself.’
          ‘Oh dear,’ said Thoko sadly. ‘So she was in trouble again.’
          ‘Exactly,’ I said. ‘The Supreme Court had become very agitated and overloaded because all of Lilomba’s judgments went there on appeal, and all of her judgments had to be overturned. The whole thing was becoming a public scandal. But in those days it was almost impossible to fire a judge.’
          ‘So she had to be promoted to the Supreme Court.’
          ‘Exactly,’ I said. ‘They thought it would be a safer place for her.’
          ‘And was it?’
          ‘Not entirely,’ I replied sadly. ‘Everything was alright for the first twenty years, and everybody forgot about the previously notorious Lilomba.  But as time went on, the older Supreme Court judges retired, until finally she became the most senior, and was appointed Chief Justice!’
          ‘And now, at last,’ Thoko breathed a sigh of relief, ‘she was ready to really distinguish herself.’
          ‘Indeed she was,’ I said. ‘She invented an entirely new form of jurisprudence. One day, sitting in her office, she asked herself Why should I wait for parliament to make laws when I can do it myself? And the next day she asked herself Why should I have all these courts hearing both sides of a story when the law is clear? I shall make the judgments myself! After all, I am the Chief Justice!
          ‘She took over the whole show?’
          ‘Exactly. Anytime she saw anything that she didn’t like, she just wrote out a judgment and sentence, and sent it by office messenger to the person who had offended her. And if one of her friends was annoyed by somebody, they would just whisper in her ear, and she would immediately send her messenger to issue another judgment and sentence. It was justice made simple. And it was an entirely new system.’
          ‘So she really distinguished herself!’
          ‘She certainly did. She destroyed the rule of law, she destroyed the constitution and she destroyed democracy. She really distinguished herself!’

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