Training country’s lawyers

Tachilisa Balule

Lawyers are well known for calling each other ‘my learned friend’ because as one of them once said, they are the most educated professionals in the universe. And in this week’s Big Interview we feature one of the learned man in the country, Dr Tachilisa Badala Balule who is also well known for working closely with the media as his area of specialty is media law. We caught up with him at his books infested office at the University of Botswana where he is working as the Head of Law department to find out more about him, his career and life away from the office.

Q. Of all the professions, why did you choose law?
I was actually influenced by my brother who was also influenced by our father to study law. I understand my grandfather wanted my father to do law but that was not to be as he (his father) seemed to be much more interested in politics. Although my grandfather did not have his wish granted through my father, I am sure he is happy where he is because our family has three lawyers.

Q. And are you happy with the influence or you wish you had done something different?
I am happy and have no regrets at all, I think if I had pursued a different career I wouldn’t have achieved what I have achieved this far. Studying law presented me with great opportunities and I am very grateful

Q. What are some of those opportunities?
I was sponsored by UB to do my masters at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom and a few years later I was back at the same institution for my doctorate. I am currently the head of the Law department at UB.

Q. Talking of being the HOD, are you happy with the caliber of lawyers that you are producing?
I am happy because some of our former students are doing well in the field, however I wish there be could that spirit of working hard which seems to be lacking amongst the young people. They don’t have that drive and ambition that used to be there during our days, I don’t know maybe it’s because some of us grew up wishing for better lives hence we worked hard. But I sincerely wish our students could work harder so they can be much more better lawyers.

Q. If you were not employed by UB, where would you be?
I would be running my law firm which would be based in Francistown, I love that city and it is where I could be if I wasn’t here.

Q. Your life after UB, where will you be going when you decide to leave the institution?
Consultancy work or if an opportunity arises join the judiciary, I am not interested in full time practice.

Q. Most people think lawyers are arrogant, is this one of the characteristics of a good lawyer?
Hard work, discipline, being articulate and doing extensive research make a good lawyer. Of course some say arrogance also works but I believe nothing can substitute humility.

Q. What has been the turning point of your career?
It was in 1996 when I attended a workshop on media law which was organized by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Botswana. I presented a paper on human rights and that completely changed my career. Before that I was more into commercial law but that presentation made me fall in love with the media.

Q. What role have you played in as far as the law and the media are concerned?
In 1998 I was part of the group that was tasked to come up with recommendations on the Broadcasting Act. I have worked closely with MISA-Botswana as a consultant where I did a study on media unfriendly laws in the country amongst other assignments. And from 1998 to 2000 I was a member of the organisation’s advocacy committee.

Q. Your views on media regulations in Botswana?
The media should regulate itself and there should be no interference from the Government. However the media should understand that its independence comes with being responsible.

In charge- Dr Tachilisa Balule

Q. And do you think the environment in Botswana is conducive for the media to freely operate?
It is but there is still room for improvement. However I lament the non existence of access to information law because it has a bearing on freedom of expression.

Q. What about diversity, would you say there are diverse views in the local media?
We have very little of diversity and plurality because of the ownership pattern of the media in the country. We have one group owning a number of newspapers, this then means we will have almost similar type of news in all those papers. My view is that no group or company should have a monopoly over the media.

Q. And the content, are you happy with it?
The public is not getting what it deserves from the media, because these media companies are in business they tend to concentrate more on making money than churning out adequate information.  I wish we had community newspaper because they would then fill the gap.

Fact file
Full names: Tachilisa Badala Balule
Date of birth: October 5, 1968
Place of birth: Mapoka Village
Marital status: Married with one daughter
Professional qualification: Doctor of Philosophy (Media Law)
Employer: University of Botswana
His mother
Past-time: Going t o the gym, gardening and spending quality time with family
Holiday destination: Home village
Car(s) driving: Chrysler Sebran unlimited
Book currently reading: Speeches of Martin Luther King Junior
Favourite music: Gospel and Afro Jazz

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