WE at Newsmakers and Noisemakers have always shared the view that, at law, everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Not so for our Noisemaker of the Week, the National Manpower Developmental Secretariat (NMDS).
When a bunch of hare-brained students forged results to access loans from the NMDS, the government arm took the draconian measure of freezing loans for thousands of students. It said it could not disburse the loans because it was still investigating the issue.
In our opinion, this kind of justice can only be found inside a kangaroo court.
Our well-thumbed dictionary says the phrase “kangaroo court” comes from the notion of justice proceeding “by leaps”, like the eponymous marsupial. You know you are in a kangaroo court when judicial proceedings deny you due process rights in the name of expediency, as is the case with the NMDS saga.
Before any punishment is meted out, the NMDS must conclude its investigations satisfactorily. After the probe, those students who are accused of fraud must be given the chance to defend themselves before a legally constituted committee.
Only after this process can the NMDS think of taking measures against anyone.
To put things into perspective, if the NMDS was in charge of immigration, would they close the border because one or two people were using fake passports? No. They would investigate who is using fake passports, establish if, indeed, the passports are forged and then act. All the other citizens would move freely and go about their business as usual.
Besides, the whole system would work better if the NMDS improved its checks and balances anyway. For example, loan application forms could be vetted by a senior official at the National University of Lesotho (NUL), who can then forward a list of names of students who qualify to the NMDS. Any students who failed in the previous year would be screened before the forms leave the university.