Cape Bar Coun­cil takes flak

Call for coun­cil’s ex­pul­sion for fail­ing to trans­form it­self

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - FATIMA SCHROEDER

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”.

Gre­gory Papier

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