FROM horse’ mouth Judge Thomas Bashite Mihayo, a man of unique intertwined professional lives.
A lot has been said including that lawyers are shysters, but Judge Thomas Mihayo, a man of many lives, his retirement in this noble profession has sharpened and made him versatile to still be ‘milked’ in the society, and that prompted the fifth phase government to elevate him as the Tanzania Tourist Board chairman at 70s.
Spotting his unique worth top qualities, Mohamed Mambo, Daily News Chief Photographer, approached him for an interview and the following emerged.
Chief Photographer: Kindly can you run me on your academic life and what inspired you to study law.
Answer: I thank you for giving me an opportunity to express myself on matters, I, by and large, had left for my consumption. I will answer your questions as follows.
I started Class One at a Catholic School in my village called Ng’wanangi in Busega District, Mwanza Region way back in 1954 and after a second attempt; I was selected to join Standard Five at Bukumbi Middle School in 1959 and at Nsumba Secondary School in 1963, thereafter I did my High School at the then Karimjee Secondary School (now Mkwakwani) in Tanga and graduated in 1968.
When time came for filling our “Kalamazoo” forms showing what we wanted to study at the University level, my first choice was B.A. (Education), however, a classmate of mine, who was also a friend, Serapion Kahangwa, (now a Senior Advocate in Mwanza) passed by and on seeing my first choice; he laughed and asked me why I was not selecting Law.
I asked him “what is Law?”
His answer: “We shall know when and if we get there.” So I closed B.A. (Education) door and substituted it with “Law”. I was indeed selected to join Law, but for some reason Mr. Kahangwa was not selected. He joined us in Law in about one month later after we had started lectures. That is how I joined Law.
Q: Can you precisely tell me one of the most delicate and sophisticated case you have ever handled and what you learnt out of it.
A: It is good, the question talks of “one of the most” delicate and sophisticate case I handled. My answer is, there are many. But one of them is Civil Case No. 197 of 1993 Ache Mwendu Limited Vs. Bank of Tanzania and four others. Out of that case I learned that a delay in handling and finalizing a case is injury to justice per se.
That case was first filed in 1993 and the judgment of the High Court was handed on 30th September 2008! The case was not an easy one indeed and lot of money was involved!
Q: Have you ever been robbed/mugged in life, and hence hate such kind of a criminal standing before you decide on his/her fate just with a stroke of a pen?
A: Fortunately, I have never been robbed in my life.
Q: How do you marry legal profession where you have been in your active life with the new office as Chairman of TTB, which has nothing to do with the legal aspect but to woo tourists?
A: There is a legal humor which goes like this: “Law deals with everything from Agriculture to Zebra Crossing.” The word Agriculture starts with an “A” and Zebra Crossing starts with “Z”. So Law deals with the whole alphabet of A to Z. In my view, there is nothing in life that is outside the ambit of Law.
When I was appointed Chairman of TTB, I did not know what it was. So, I looked for the Act establishing TTB, the history and any Government Notices and Rules made under it and the rest is not difficult. I had to first know the institution very well.
And after a thorough briefing from the Managing Director and management and a long briefing from the Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism the then Professor Jumanne Maghembe I was ready to go.
Q: Being a former President of Tanganyika Law Society (TLS) what did you learn worth sharing with the new brand of staff in the same office?
A: I was serving my second term as President of TLS when I was appointed Judge of the High Court in 2003. At that time we were elected purely on merit. Things have changed much. Looking at it, I feel, and there is heavy evidence to indicate that, unfortunately, political considerations are now almost ruling TLS. It is a difficult situation.
Q: Have you ever lost sleep over deciding on a verdict?
A: I have lost sleep while deciding on a verdict! Yes, many times over. I always say, anybody who envies a Judge’s work has never been one. Losing sleep over deciding a case is the normal life of a Judge. There are cases where the evidence balances so much it gives you sleepless nights to decide.
There are cases where the society has taken a position, rightly or wrongly. There are politically charged cases. All I can say, losing sleep on a case is the normal life of a Judge.
Q: How often have you given a wrong verdict?
A: To know that my verdict was wrong, the matter must go to the Court of Appeal. When your verdict is overturned, it is when you know you gave a wrong verdict. The procedure is that where a Judge thinks he gave a wrong verdict, he has to write to the Chief Justice praying to him to have the verdict considered in the Court of Appeal after explaining the reasons.
The reason is that when you give judgment, you become functus (Kindly, explain the meaning of this to an ordinary person to know the meaning. But the Court of Appeal can say “you were not wrong here” or can correct in the way you thought you went wrong.
But even where the Court of Appeal overturns your verdict there are situations you feel, deep down, that the Court of Appeal is not correct. But on the Common Law Principle of stare decisis and that litigation must come to an end, you let it rest there.