‘No di­vi­sions in Law So­ci­ety’

Lesotho Times - - Big Interview -

THE Law So­ci­ety of Le­sotho re­cently elected its new five-mem­ber coun­cil for a oneyear term. Among other re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, the Law So­ci­ety is man­dated with over­see­ing the con­duct of all le­gal prac­ti­tion­ers in the coun­try in terms of the Le­gal Prac­ti­tion­ers Act and the Law So­ci­ety Act of 1983. The coun­cil su­per­vises the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s man­date and ob­jec­tives.

In this wide-rang­ing in­ter­view, Le­sotho Times (LT) reporter, Lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane, speaks with At­tor­ney Non­nie Da Silva-manyokole who has been elected Law So­ci­ety sec­re­tary-gen­eral for the third time in a row.

Among other is­sues, At­tor­ney Da Silva-manyokole ad­dresses al­le­ga­tions of po­lit­i­cal di­vi­sions and non-com­pli­ance by some lawyers within the reg­u­la­tory body as well as the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try in as far as the Law So­ci­ety is con­cerned.

LT: Can you briefly tell us about the process of elect­ing a Law So­ci­ety coun­cil?

Da Siva-manyokole: The Law So­ci­ety of Le­sotho Coun­cil was elected by the mem­bers of the or­gan­i­sa­tion on 21 Oc­to­ber 2016. At­tor­ney Tu­misang Mosotho is the new pres­i­dent. The vice-pres­i­dent is Ad­vo­cate Christo­pher Le­phuthing. I am the sec­re­tary-gen­eral. The trea­surer is At­tor­ney Moshoeshoe Mokaloba and Ad­vo­cate Nthati Pheko is an or­di­nary mem­ber.

The han­dover from the pre­vi­ous Law So­ci­ety Coun­cil was very smooth be­cause both the pre­vi­ous and the new coun­cils met and made an agree­ment to work hand-in-hand for the fur­ther­ance of the man­date of the Law So­ci­ety.

Upon the sit­ting of the new coun­cil, we re­solved that in or­der for the Law So­ci­ety to work ef­fec­tively, we needed to es­tab­lish var­i­ous com­mit­tees, which means the coun­cil is go­ing to in­volve mem­bers who are go­ing to take part as mem­bers of the com­mit­tees. On 17 Novem­ber 2016, we held a gen­eral meet­ing whereby the mem­bers unan­i­mously agreed to es­tab­lish the dif­fer­ent com­mit­tees.

LT: Tell us about these com­mit­tees.

Da Silva-manyokole: The first one is the Dis­ci­plinary Com­mit­tee, which will as­sist the coun­cil in hear­ing the dis­ci­plinary com­plaints lodged by the pub­lic against any le­gal prac­ti­tioner; and that is the man­date of the Law So­ci­ety to hear com­plaints by the pub­lic or to make in­quiries on their own of the con­duct or dis­hon­ourable con­duct by any le­gal prac­ti­tioner.

And when they find that such a con­duct re­sults in mis­con­duct, which is pro­vided for in the Le­gal Prac­ti­tion­ers Act of 1983, then one of many sanc­tions may be im­posed on that par­tic­u­lar prac­ti­tioner. So, that com­mit­tee is go­ing to be very use­ful in fur­ther­ing the man­date of the Law So­ci­ety.

In fact, as a re­sult of a large num­ber of com­plaints that we have re­ceived, the coun­cil has de­cided to have at least four sub-com­mit­tees each con­sist­ing of three mem­bers of the Law So­ci­ety who will sit and make in­quiries and make a de­ter­mi­na­tion or rec­om­men­da­tion as they have heard the ev­i­dence of both the le­gal prac­ti­tioner and the com­plainant.

LT: What are some ex­am­ples of acts of mis­con­duct by the le­gal prac­ti­tion­ers?

Da Silva-manyokole: One of the mis­con­ducts is ac­cept­ing money from the client and fail­ing, or de­lay­ing go­ing to court in one in­stance, or ac­tu­ally not even per­form­ing in terms of the man­date given by the client.

So, when­ever there are such cases, mem­bers of the pub­lic come to the Law So­ci­ety Coun­cil and lodge a com­plaint. We then, nor­mally, write a let­ter to that par­tic­u­lar prac­ti­tioner to ‘show cause’ why he or she can­not be dis­ci­plined.

If the coun­cil is not sat­is­fied with his or her ex­pla­na­tion, such a le­gal prac­ti­tioner is then called to the Dis­ci­plinary Com­mit­tee. The com­mit­tee will give rec­om­men­da­tions to the coun­cil. The coun­cil will ei­ther ap­prove or dis­miss the rec­om­men­da­tions.

LT: What are the other com­mit­tees?

Da Silva-manyokole: The se­cond one is the En­ter­tain­ment Com­mit­tee be­cause we have re­alised that we don’t have enough func­tions that help unite lawyers in a leisurely man­ner.

All we do ev­ery day is to go to court, but we never come to meet in a re­laxed and so­cial set­ting. We are go­ing to also have a com­mit­tee that will be man­dated with the role of pro­duc­ing publi­ca­tions and or­ga­niz­ing work­shops. In terms of the ob­jec­tives of the Law So­ci­ety, we are man­dated to have li­braries, publi­ca­tions and con­trib­ute in the law re­forms of the coun­try.

That com­mit­tee will deal with most of the ob­jec­tives con­tained in sec­tion four of our Law So­ci­ety Act of 1983. We are also go­ing to have a com­mit­tee which we term ‘Oper­a­tion Hlasela’.

This com­mit­tee is also go­ing to be use­ful in help­ing the Law So­ci­ety con­trol or reg­u­late the pro­fes­sion be­cause we have re­alised there are lawyers who are ad­mit­ted but don’t com­ply with the Le­gal Prac­ti­tion­ers Act. Those lawyers, for in­stance, do not have of­fices.

They con­sult and ac­cept monies from clients with­out even open­ing trust ac­counts. So this com­mit­tee will be tasked with go­ing to the dis­tricts and find­ing all those le­gal prac­ti­tion­ers who don’t com­ply; tak­ing their names and sub­mit­ting the list be­fore the courts of law so they are barred from rep­re­sent­ing clients in the courts.

That’s what the com­mit­tee will do. The rea­son be­hind this is that, in the pre­vi­ous Law So­ci­eties there were strate­gies in place, but when it came to ex­e­cu­tion it was quite dif­fi­cult be­cause there are only five mem­bers in the coun­cil.

The com­mit­tees will be chaired by one of the coun­cil mem­bers to en­sure there is com­pli­ance in terms of the man­date of the Law So­ci­ety.

LT: What ex­actly do you hope to achieve with these com­mit­tees?

Da Silva-manyokole: With the es­tab­lish­ment of the com­mit­tees, we are go­ing to get more re­sults. We need to have publi­ca­tions. There has to be a news­let­ter that re­ports on all the mat­ters that have oc­curred in re­la­tion to the courts and the Law So­ci­ety.

LT: You have briefly touched on some of the func­tions of the Law So­ci­ety. What else is the Law So­ci­ety man­dated to do?

Da Silva-manyokole: We ad­mit at­tor­neys and ad­vo­cates. We pre­pare and set le­gal ex­am­i­na­tions as per the Le­gal Prac­ti­tion­ers Act. We also want to deal with the is­sue of law re­forms be­cause we have re­alised that the Le­gal Prac­ti­tion­ers Act of 1983 is very old. The Law So­ci­ety Act of 1983 will also be scru­ti­nised. There are some clauses that need to be re­pealed.

LT: Re­cently, but be­fore ten­ure of the new coun­cil, the Law So­ci­ety was ac­cused of fail­ing to take ac­tion against al­leged hu­man rights in­frac­tions on some of your mem­bers and the me­dia. What do you say to that?

Da Silva-manyokole: There is a ru­mour that the pre­vi­ous Law So­ci­ety Coun­cil did not take ac­tion with re­gards to the ar­rest of At­tor­ney Khotso Nthon­tho, the sit­u­a­tion of Ad­vo­cate ’ Mole Ku­malo and the shoot­ing of Le­sotho Times and Sun­day Ex­press Edi­tor Lloyd Mu­tungamiri.

With re­gards to the ar­rest of At­tor­ney Nthon­tho, the pre­vi­ous coun­cil upon hear­ing that Mr Nthon­tho was ar­rested lodged an ur­gent ap­pli­ca­tion for his im­me­di­ate re­lease. We were also present at the po­lice sta­tion to en­sure he was safely re­leased.

I will as­sure you that we were there un­til around 12 o’clock mid­night and we were sat­is­fied the whole time, be­fore leav­ing to our re­spec­tive homes, that in­deed he was re­leased and he was safe.

With re­gard to his re­lease, we also com­mu­ni­cated with our coun­ter­parts in South Africa who also in­ter­vened and com­mu­ni­cated with At­tor­ney Nthon­tho. This was a sim­i­lar case with Ad­vo­cate Ku­malo where we in­vited our coun­ter­parts in South Africa and else­where in the world. For in­stance, the Amer­i­can Bar As­so­ci­a­tion was here.

The South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) Lawyers As­so­ci­a­tion was also present. We in­ter­acted with them with re­gard to the sit­u­a­tion that was pre­vail­ing. So in­deed the Law So­ci­ety was ac­tively in­volved in those in­stances.

How­ever, on the shoot­ing of Mr Mu­tungamiri, the Law So­ci­ety did not make a state­ment. How­ever, this should not mean that we ac­cepted the shoot­ing.

Even today, we still are re­gret­ting the fact that we did not make a state­ment be­cause in­deed what tran­spired was a crim­i­nal act that should have been in­ves­ti­gated.

Si­lenc­ing the me­dia and lawyers de­feats of the ends of jus­tice be­cause in the Con­sti­tu­tion of Le­sotho we have free­dom of speech and right to le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion. Any kind of threat or in­tim­i­da­tion to those peo­ple is in­ter­fer­ing with the con­sti­tu­tion.

LT: There are also al­le­ga­tions of se­ri­ous di­vi­sions within the Law So­ci­ety in­flu­enced by dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tions. How true is this?

Da Silva-manyokole: Lawyers and any res­i­dent of Le­sotho are en­ti­tled to be af­fil­i­ated with any po­lit­i­cal party. I think that al­le­ga­tion is a bit mis­placed be­cause con­crete facts were not dis­closed.

Ba­si­cally, what is hap­pen­ing in the Law So­ci­ety can­not be termed as divi­sion be­cause the Law So­ci­ety is a reg­u­la­tor. We are reg­u­lat­ing the per­for­mance of the le­gal prac­ti­tion­ers.

If, for in­stance, some le­gal prac­ti­tion­ers choose not to at­tend some meet­ings, we can­not nec­es­sar­ily say they are di­vided. What we re­alised was that some lawyers felt ex­cluded; that is why we have de­vised means of hav­ing in­ter­ac­tion with the body of the Law So­ci­ety.

I can­not say the al­le­ga­tion of divi­sion is true. We can­not say in cer­tain terms that the rea­son why some le­gal prac­ti­tion­ers don’t at­tend meet­ings is be­cause of their po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tions. We want the Law So­ci­ety to in­clude most of its mem­bers in ev­ery­thing we do.

LT: There was also an is­sue of some of the se­nior lawyers, calling them­selves the Big five (King’s Coun­sel Motiea Teele, Sale­mane Phafane, Zwe­lakhe Mda, Karabo Mo­hau and At­tor­ney Qhale­hang Let­sika) who did not see eye-to-eye with the Law So­ci­ety on the ap­point­ment of Dr Kananelo Mos­ito as pres­i­dent of the Court of Ap­peal. The Law So­ci­ety even dis­tanced it­self from the Big Five’s state­ment which was against the ap­point­ment. Have you re­solved that is­sue?

The han­dover from the pre­vi­ous Law So­ci­ety Coun­cil was very smooth be­cause both the pre­vi­ous and the new coun­cils met and made an agree­ment to work hand-in-hand for the fur­ther­ance of the man­date of the Law So­ci­ety

Da Silva-manyokole: Not nec­es­sar­ily. I think the is­sue of the Big Five is still a very com­plex is­sue. We did not as­so­ciate our­selves with what they did at the time. On the other hand, it seemed they also did not want to as­so­ciate them­selves with the Law So­ci­ety.

They had their own ideas which they felt we would not un­der­stand. They found it nec­es­sary to go on their own and fur­ther an agenda they had. But with re­gard to them pay­ing sub­scrip­tions with the Law So­ci­ety, they are still our mem­bers.

The fact that we can reg­u­late them, call and dis­ci­pline them if there is any con­tra­ven­tion of the Le­gal Prac­ti­tion­ers Act, shows we still have that power. I don’t think there is any bad blood be­tween us.

If they may not want to as­so­ciate with us, it has not been through non-pay­ing of the sub­scrip­tion or dis­obey­ing any Law So­ci­ety rules and reg­u­la­tions.

The fact of the mat­ter is they seg­re­gated them­selves from us. We still call upon the Big Five to re­join us. You will also re­alise that they are our se­niors; so we still need their wis­dom and guid­ance.

LT: There is ev­i­dent divi­sion within the main-rul­ing Demo­cratic Con­gress (DC). Sec­tion 3.2.6 of the party con­sti­tu­tion al­lows for the party to call for in­ter­ven­tion from any of the four or­gan­i­sa­tions, in­clud­ing the Law So­ci­ety. What is your po­si­tion re­gard­ing the DC is­sue?

Da Silva-manyokole: If we are in­vited, as the sec­tion al­lows, we wouldn’t refuse. If it is in law for us to be in at­ten­dance and give our ad­vice and guid­ance we are open to that.

In the mean­time we are still watch­ing and putting our ear on the ground. So far, we have not re­ally sat down to pro­nounce our­selves.

Ba­si­cally, we are still spec­ta­tors like any­body else be­cause we have not been in­vited for any ad­vi­sory role. As the Law So­ci­ety, I think there will be a time when we will pro­nounce our­selves es­pe­cially if the administration of jus­tice is threat­ened.

at­tor­ney non­nie Da silva-manyokole.

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