Cape Bar Council takes flak
Call for council’s expulsion for failing to transform itself
IT’S CRUNCH time for the Cape Bar Council (CBC) as its umbrella body, the General Council of the Bar of South Africa ( GCB), prepares to tackle fierce and impassioned debates on transformation when it meets in Joburg today.
Activist organisation Advocates for Transformation (AFT) has asked the GCB to expel the Cape Bar Council as a constituent bar, claiming it is opposed to transformation because it has failed to implement a so-called 50/50 principle. This entails amending its constitution to make it compulsory to ensure 50 percent of members sitting on the council are AFT-appointed.
Of the 470 advocates at the Cape Bar, 112 are black and 77 are members of AFT. The Cape Bar and the AFT in the Western Cape have been at loggerheads on several occasions over the slow pace of transformation.
At a special general meeting of the Cape Bar this year, members were asked to vote on an AFT proposal that the CBC’s constitution be amended to stipulate that half the council must come from the AFT.
The constitution states 50 percent of the Cape Bar Council must be black, regardless of whether or not they are AFT members.
Western Cape AFT chairman Gregory Papier said the Western Cape and Northern Cape were the only constitu- ent bars of the GCB which did not have clauses in their constitutions stipulating that 50 percent of the council must come from AFT. He said there were not enough black members in Kimberly to enable the Northern Cape to adopt such a clause.
A special AGM was held in Cape Town this year where members voted against the 50/50 proposal, prompting the AFT to take the issue to the GCB.
But, before it even reached that stage, the issue turned ugly when the AFT refused to recognise the CBC as a legitimate structure and asked its members last month not to apply to take silk (become senior counsel).
In correspondence sent to all AFT members, Papier said: “We, the AFT members, know what it is to have suffered under apartheid and still experience the effects thereof under the untransformed Cape Bar. The idea of transformation is the giving of handouts in the form of bursaries to our people – they refuse to effect real transformation, which we believe can only be done by empowering our black members through the transfer of skills and the provision of qualitative briefing opportunities. We cannot afford to beg for crumbs at the oppressors’ table any longer.”
Papier described the CBC as arrogant and said it would rather choose to have its own “hand-picked” black people on the council to do their bidding.
“We know the truth. The 50 percent black members on the Bar were elected by a majority of white members at their elections,” he said, adding that the AFT did not believe the GCB was powerless to act against the CBC.
Papier said an expulsion from the GCB could have dire consequences for the Cape Bar, because it would then no longer be allowed to participate in any committees.
Papier wrote the corres- pondence after receiving a letter from CBC chairwoman Tanya Golden SC which refused an AFT request that the lodging of silk applications be postponed until after the GCB annual meeting.
She wrote “your difficulty appears to be that AFT Western Cape can achieve more in the way of transformation than the Cape Bar has. While we accept that the Cape Bar has a long way to go to ensure that it is sufficiently transformed, the magnitude of this challenge is borne out by the the fact that AFT has, as an organisation, itself achieved very little in the way of transformation”.