Vusi Mashinini Uncapped: The Slightly Longer Short Story Behind The Man

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Vusi Mashinini

Section 1: Background on Personal and Professional Life

1. Can you tell us about your journey from your personal background to schooling and leading up to your current profession? What inspired you to pursue a career in law and finance?

A: My school journey is not a very complicated one. I am a product of NULIS, and I was thoroughbred through the system from Grade R – back in the days when Ms Fitter was the school principal. Anyone who was groomed in that era will understand the reason behind that specific reference. From then onwards, I did my undergraduate studies in Law at the National University of Lesotho, from whence I came to the University of Cambridge for my Master of Laws.

My story is a bit funny. I wanted to be a lot of things when growing up, some of them I still am. In Grade 4, I discovered that I had a proficiency in poetry. My first poem was probably around 4-to 5 lines, basically a one-stanza poem…but I was proud of it and so were the people who applauded my performance of it. I guess at that point I wanted to be a poet but, over time in my pre-teen years, I developed more desires out of the world, especially after watching a prominent TV show by one of the USA’s wealthy former presidents. Suffice it to say, that may be when I was infected by capitalism.

Accordingly, my interests swayed towards becoming a commercial real estate property developer, and later on a practical plan formulated to become a structural engineer as an entry point into that industry. Lo and behold, as usual, I started to believe that structural engineering was not rare and impossible enough to be attached to my life story. This was around Grade 10 and I began flirting with the idea of aeronautical engineering – working on jet turbines. However, that was a short-lived dream because of what I perceived to be the remoteness of getting into MIT for STEM, as well as the remoteness of the industry itself. A closer rare industry seemed to be investment banking and finance, and I began developing an interest in BCom Investment Banking and BCom Law.

My focus eventually found abode in the BCom Law specialism, in particular, because some of the ideas I had discussed with my Business Studies teacher always seemed to hit a brick wall, “because the law doesn’t allow that.” One of these ideas was having a digital platform on which interested investors could buy a stake in partnerships and become limited partners. At the time, Dr Ts’epo Moleleki told me that only public companies are legally allowed to solicit equity investments from the public. Issues like these made me realize that an understanding of both Law and Business was a necessity.

Sadly, my interest in BCom Law was not realized because NMDS did not sponsor that. After a candid conversation with my parents, it was decided that it may be best to pursue Law at NUL and specialize later. During this time, I became enmeshed in the world of finance and would often bother my then Business Studies teacher i.e. Dr Ts’epo Moleleki with numerous ideas on an almost daily basis. This is also when I discovered a treatment to that capitalism infection that I mentioned earlier. At that time, this treatment was called Conscious Capitalism. Today, it has evolved through multiple iterations from social capitalism, to ESG investing, to sustainable finance.

2. Your academic background is quite impressive, including your current pursuit of an LLM at the University of Cambridge. How do you think your educational experiences have shaped your professional endeavours?

A: My educational experiences have had a significant contribution to my professional experiences. Legal training breeds critical and divergent thinkers. Owing to this, one can go into almost any professional endeavour after Law School. Moreover, lawyers and accountants are the two professionals that are needed in every single modern society industry that you can think of, which means that my legal background has opened a number of doors. Thus, my professional endeavours have entailed quite a wide array of enriching industries.

3. As a published author of “Encrytocurrency as Property: Roman-Dutch Law From A Southern African Perspective,” what motivated you to explore this topic, and what insights do you hope readers gain from your work?

A: Primarily, I wanted to bring about new life to the conversation pertaining to the property status of cryptocurrency. There have been, and still are, some arguments about how well cryptocurrency can fulfil the three properties of money i.e. being a medium of exchange, a unit of account, and a store of value. The question regarding its status as money is more of an economic question. From a legal perspective, there were two initial questions that I saw:

  1. Could cryptocurrency be legal tender, and
  2. Could cryptocurrency be property, to begin with?

These were two separate questions and one of them was more difficult to answer than the other. The question of legal tender was easy to answer because it’s a question of legislative recognition to deem cryptocurrency as a legal tender with the same power to discharge legal debts as a national fiat currency. That question didn’t trigger too many complex legal questions, it merely required the exercise of legal power to deem it so. Accordingly, I dived into the difficult legal question of whether it could be recognized as property at common law i.e. according to the long-established body of principles that underpin legal systems. Thus, my arguments needed to begin by investigating the historical evolution of a framework of principles, as opposed to quickly rushing to the mere exercise of legislative power.

I hope readers learn more about cryptocurrencies in a concisely formulated body of work. In addition, I hope global readers learn more about the Roman-Dutch Law system, which is a more unique system in comparison to the more common Anglo-Saxon system. Lastly, I hope regulators get a better understanding of the nature of the beast, and what challenges and options come with dealing with cryptocurrency.

4. You’ve held various positions in both legal and corporate affairs roles, including at the Official Lesotho PostBank. How has your experience in these diverse roles contributed to your professional growth and skill set?

A: My experiences have added significant value to my professional growth and skill set. I am a more diverse and well-rounded professional and I have realized that, although this is uncommon in Africa, it is very common in the Global North and the Conceptual West.

5. Could you share some highlights from your involvement with organizations like Lucy Enterprise Society and the African Youths in Energy Network? How do you balance your professional commitments with your contributions to these groups?

With Lucy Enterprise Society, I am involved in work that matches brilliant ideas to seed capital and mentors. We have a great network and immense support from institutional partners. It’s one of many initiatives that are cohering towards building Silicon Fen and giving Silicon Valley a run for its money. We are involved in adding to the globally renowned “Cambridge Effect”.

We have recently had two seed capital competitions, which were sponsored by some HNWs, impact investment firms, and engineering firms.

With the African Youths in Energy Network, we have been raising both on the continent in Africa and with international stakeholders in the energy industry. We are advocating for the inclusion of youth in the energy transition conversation and arguing for a Just Energy Transition in Africa. Our main focal point is the elimination of energy poverty in Africa through the most justifiable means for Africans, taking a holistic view of the need to adopt renewable energy for a sustainable planet whilst balancing Africa’s pressing need to address poverty and under-industrialization.

The issue of balancing professional commitments is just about time management and emotional regulation. If you can manage time and manage stress it doesn’t become an issue. As Basotho often say, “Ke litaba joalo ka tse ling,” or as it is put in the Gray Man movie, “It’s Just Another Thursday.”

Section 2: Career Achievements and Contributions

6. As the Legal Lead at the African Youths in Energy Network, what initiatives have you spearheaded to provide legal and governance advisory services, and how do you see your contributions impacting the organization’s mission?

A: I took a lead role in drafting the Constitution, which was not easy considering that I had to learn the applicable registration law of a jurisdiction that was outside of the SADC region. Nonetheless, this was my formative contribution, following which I was later appointed Legal Lead and have been handling the legal side of MOUs with different strategic partners.

7. Being a part of the Executive Committee at the Lucy Enterprise Society, how do you assist in transforming ideas into start-up ventures, and what criteria do you use for matching them with seed funding?

A: This draws back to the competitions I mentioned earlier. We usually run an enterprise challenge and have weekly mentoring sessions for members to meet with experienced mentors who have partnered with us. This year, we had more strategic partners and managed to partner in running two competitions.

I can’t divulge everything but some of the collaborators we have had this year have included a former leader of the Chanel luxury brand, and one of the founders/founding investors in Shazam. It’s been an exciting year!

8. Your involvement in the Price Media Law Moot Court Competition and other legal competitions is notable. How have these experiences shaped your understanding of media law and contributed to your professional development as a lawyer?

These competitions have significantly improved my understanding of these nuanced legal fields. I have grown to have a depth of understanding that would have either otherwise been unavailable to me, or taken a long time to arrive at. My general professional development has benefited very handsomely from these competitions. I have received immense exposure to the alternative professional worlds that exist for lawyers and I got a chance to challenge myself against some of the best opponents in the world, and now turned colleagues and friends.

Media Law was a particularly fascinating one because it dealt with freedom of speech, data privacy, and the extent to which one has a right to protection of their personal data, even where they are suspected of committing crimes. Interestingly, this becomes even more complex if the crimes that they are suspected of are political crimes such as sedition.

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Litsitso Sibolla
Litsitso Sibolla, a dedicated writer for Selibeng.com and catalyst for change in Lesotho, possesses an unwavering passion that ignites transformation. His unwavering commitment to empowering the youth and driving positive shifts has established him as a prominent figure youth empowerment. Through his continually growing coffee shop and music company, centered around the aspirations of young people, he has established platforms that uplift and motivate the upcoming generation. Embark on a journey alongside Litsitso Sibolla as he empowers Lesotho's youth and inspires a promising future for everyone.