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Tribute to Lizo Zola Ngcongco

I had been barely two years at the ropes, when one morning, during tea, a startling announcement was made; “Lizo is back”.

We were clustered in Office 6, on the fourth floor of the Barclays Bank Building where the Prosecutions Department, of the Attorney General’s Chambers, was housed, before it moved to the grand offices of the Attorneys General’s Chambers Building, and then, to Khama Plaza, its final grave. It was custom then, for those that had no court attendances on a particular day, to meet in that office, where both tea, and wisdom were generously served. It was the perfect cradle for aspiring young prosecutors in the formative years of their careers.

The name Lizo, evoked that feeling, not unlike that felt when a young lawyer first stands alone, before a Judge. It is an experience one can never prepare for. You spend a whole night, quoting the Constitution to a mopstick. The name Lizo Ngcongco had been with me since High School. I had read it over and over again.

I kept glancing at the door, in anticipation. I was perhaps, the only one nervous, in the room. After what seemed like eternity, he entered through the door, to rapturous celebration. I stood there, mortified  not knowing if to introduce myself; or to wait to be introduced. I waited; dazzled to the bone, feigning obsession with the hot beverage on my hand. The name Lizo Ngcongo had a dignity, and a cadence about it. So did the man. Apart from being so far removed from my language, it seemed to repeat itself, specifically for emphasis, doubling, in my mind, the stature of its owner.

He appeared rather stocky, and carried about him an air of confidence. His presence alone, was sufficient admonition to youthful exuberance, and commanded observance, of the best manners. Puberty had dealt with me a bad hand. Graduating from High School was already 1, 70m in height. I could easily see the crown of every head in the room. Yet, on that day, I felt the shortest. Short, in stature, short in wisdom, short in height, short in everything. A colleague introduced me, rescuing me from my misery. He extended his hand, and shook mine; “I am Lizo”, he said. Everybody called him, Lizo. It would be a while before I could get round to it.  I insisted in calling him; Mr. Ngcongco. There would be more tea meetings, over the days. In time, he was “Lizo”, or “LZ”. He called me, “KN”, an appellation I felt lacked the swagger, but who was I to refuse Lizo.

We would spend that year, and years following, doing cases together. There could have been no greater pleasure than to learn at the master’s feet.

I walked

around like a student of Socrates or Plato, or Aristotle. I could pull the name in any meeting of the boys, and demand respect, for that fact alone. When he took the mantle of Da Siva Qc, in Bosch versud The State, I had to be close. It was a chance not to be missed. I was always there, carrying his bags, doing research and just clinging to his gown, alongside other young lawyers. After all, he was Lizo. There was just no way, you would not be wise being by his side, even if by osmosis. In time, he would be a brother, and a friend. He always set time aside for the development of his cheers and was ever, acutely aware of his talents. The dramatist and master storyteller gloried in them.  He had time, for the job for which he was employed. His secretary was purely ceremonial.

He was a lawyer of the old order. Technology was not portion. Once I asked him why his work computer had never been used, and it had been many years. “KN”, he said; “I have a non aggression pact with this computer. We have agreed, that if it doesn’t bother me, I will not bother it”.

The case of Wassim Ahmed and Others versus The State, settled his stature amongst peers. I child was kidnapped and a ransom was demanded, from his grandfather; a Gaborone politician and tycoon. This time, it was Basimane Bogopa, hanging on to his coat-tails, in the prosecution. Soon as it became public knowledge that Lizo, would be prosecuting, there was terror in the enemy camp.

Reasons were found to have him recuse himself from the case, which he easily brushed aside. I do not mean any disrespect to his worthy adversaries when I say, the prospect of facing Lizo, had struck terror in the bravest hearts.

Much has been said about his oratorical skill. He was rich in diction and wisdom, all served from an elephantic memory that seemed to remember everything, crucial or trivial. He spoke with erudition and reveled in his obvious stature. In his element, Lizo was unstoppable. Yet there were times when he seemed a shadow of himself. The man who deserved the highest honours of his profession, only ever got half what he deserved.

Lizo visited me at my office a few months back, with Counsel Aobakwe Monamo, and together we reminisced over it all. I would be seeing my brother for the last time. My heart bleeds. May his family find comfort in God at this difficult hour. 

So long Lizo; so long, my friend.

Chief On Friday

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