News and Information

Young Motswana lawyer lands job at The Hague
September 2, 2004
GABORONE - A young Motswana attorney, Lindy Muzila, has found employment with the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at The Hague in the Netherlands.

BOPA spoke to her two days prior to her departure to the world's capital of international justice in a bid to trace her progression until her ultimate arrival on the international legal forum.

"I was born in Francistown 27 years ago and at the age of five resumed my primary school in the United States where my parents were studying. In 1984, I came back to Botswana and schooled at Northside Primary School before transferring to Lesedi Primary where I completed my primary school. I then did my forms 1-4 at Maru-a-Pula before going for Tirelo Setshaba and ultimately ended at University of Botswana." How did you qualify for Tirelo Setshaba without having completed Cambridge? Ooh, I forgot to mention that at the end of my Form Four I sat for the then accelerated programme exams and passed.

Did you find employment immediately after completing your studies at UB and if so, where? Yes, I got a job at the Attorney General's Chambers and six months down the line I resigned because I went for a self sponsored one-year masters degree (LLM) in International Criminal Law in Italy. There was no possibility of taking leave, except to resign, because I was on probation.

What became of you after you completed your postgraduate studies in Italy? Fortunately AG's Chambers re-employed me and I managed to complete my pupilage.

Since the AG's Chambers has several divisions such as Legal drafting, Deeds, Civil litigation and Prosecutions was it by accident or by design that you were seconded to the prosecution division? Oh no! I have always had a passion for criminal and international law. By the way, I also had a stint at the international commercial division which was then called the general division.

What was your area of focus career-wise when you completed your LLB degree regarding being a state counsel as opposed to a private practitioner? I must admit that my colleagues in private practice make a lot of money as compared to us. But at times money need not be the guiding principle.

Like I said, I love criminal law but unfortunately private practice deals a lot with civil law and little of criminal law. I was also burned by a desire to put criminals away from the innocent society, my boss calls it Tirelo Setshaba.

Was becoming a lawyer one of your ambitions during your childhood? I have always known I was going to be a lawyer. Look, I got ace in my science subjects but I just was not interested in pursuing a science career. Law was my destination.

Do you have any role models? I have long admired Athalia Molokomme ever since my first year at UB. She has extensively published books and is an authority in the legal forum. Professor Nsereko is also one man that is my model. In fact, he is the one who taught me and inspired me to pursue International law.

When are you resuming duties at ICTY? Monday the 30th I must be at the new office. That means I am leaving the AG's Chambers on August 27.

Tell us of your new post madam. What does it entail? I am going to be an Associate Legal Officer (Chambers) at ICTY.

Basically, I'll be doing the same things that I am doing here save to say that the court there is a hybrid between civil and common law. It is more hands-on.

Among others, I will be responsible for drafting of the charge sheets, researching and at times appearing as a friend of the court providing legal service.

Is it a contract or a permanent post and how did you get it? It is a two-year renewable contract and I saw it on the Internet and tried my luck. The job itself is my dream job and it is directly in line with what I did in my LLM.

Why did you choose an international tribunal as opposed to other jurisdictions either regionally or continentally? Obviously the exposure that goes with an international tribunal is every lawyer's ambition. This job is also a combination of criminal and international law both of which I did for my LLM. Locally you can only pursue one of these disciplines, not both at a time.

Currently, how many Batswana are there at The Hague? We have one Patrick Gabaake who went there in 2001.That translates to say I am the first Motswana woman to be at the ICTY.

Can you please comment on our legal system in Botswana.

I think we need to review our sentences and prioritise. For instance, there is a minimum mandatory sentence of five years' imprisonment for stock theft while there is no minimum sentence for a capital offence such as murder. I don't think this is logical. But on a general note, our legal system is reasonably good.

Tell us of your normal day and what you do during leisure.

I get to work on time and prepare to go to court either for a mention or a trial. Usually I knock off late when I have a trial or an appeal. During leisure I exercise at the gym and later relax by reading magazines. Ooh, I nearly forgot to mention that I also love eating.

Kindly brief us of your family background.

I am a second born in a family of five.

My parents are resident in Francistown while both my brothers are outside the country studying. I am currently unmarried.

What are you going to miss most in Botswana? Obviously my family and friends. But I must confess that I am going to miss my occasional appearances at the High Court.

Let's hear your motivational word to young aspiring lawyers. Guys, nothing is beyond anyone. Just identify your goal and go after it.

Ms Muzila thank you very much for the interview and wish you a happy and fruitful stay at ICTY. Thank you and goodbye. BOPA

Source: Botswana Daily News

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