City advocate ‘bul­lied’ out of bar coun­cil

Chal­lenge to ter­mi­na­tion

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

SE­RI­OUS al­le­ga­tions of bul­ly­ing have been lev­elled against the Cape Bar Coun­cil (CBC) in a West­ern Cape High Court ap­pli­ca­tion which a black fe­male advocate lodged to chal­lenge the ter­mi­na­tion of her mem­ber­ship.

How­ever, the CBC has de­nied the “in­cau­tious aver­ments” she made “in the strong­est terms”, say­ing they lacked sub­stan­ti­a­tion.

It ex­plained the steps it took be­fore ter­mi­nat­ing her mem­ber­ship.

Pearl Mathi­bela ac­cused the CBC of mak­ing her stay at the Bar in­tol­er­a­ble and of ter­mi­nat­ing her mem­ber­ship with­out rea­son, af­ter she had laid a com­plaint against it with the Gen­eral Coun­cil of the Bar of South Africa (GCB).

In an af­fi­davit be­fore the court, she ex­plained she had lodged the com­plaint with the GCB on Oc­to­ber 18.

In the let­ter of com­plaint she said the CBC had called upon her to ap­pear be­fore it to dis­cuss “var­i­ous de­faults”. These in­cluded Bar dues, GCB levies and ar­rear rental for cham­bers.

Her view, how­ever, was the CBC’s ac­tions were il­le­git­i­mate and she would not dig­nify them by re­spond­ing.

She pointed out she had no ob­jec­tion to par­tic­i­pat­ing in le­git­i­mate pro­cesses of the coun­cil.

re­spond­ing

How­ever, Mathi­bela be­lieved there was no pro­vi­sion in the CBC con­sti­tu­tion which em­pow­ered it to call upon her to ap­pear be­fore it for the rea­sons it stated.

Mathi­bela pointed out the CBC did not in­ter­vene when she and her land­lady be­came locked in a dis­pute over rental for her cham­bers and turned down her re­quest to be ex­empted from hold­ing cham­bers.

The meet­ing she was asked to at­tend was sched­uled for the same day she sent the com­plaint to the CBC.

She did not at­tend and her mem­ber­ship was ter­mi­nated.

Now Mathi­bela hopes the High Court will come to her res­cue.

In her ap­pli­ca­tion, she asked the court to or­der the CBC to im­me­di­ately re­in­state her as a mem­ber and to back­date the re­in­state­ment to Oc­to­ber 18.

Mathi­bela al­leged the ter­mi­na­tion of her mem­ber­ship in­fringes her con­sti­tu­tional rights.

She added she had con­sis­tently chal­lenged op­pres­sive and un­fair prac­tices, and she be­lieved the ter­mi­na­tion of her mem­ber­ship was part of an en­deav­our to sup­press dis­sent.

When the case went to court yes­ter­day, the CBC filed an op­pos­ing af­fi­davit in which it de­nied her claims and set out the pro­ce­dure it had adopted in which she was given an op­por­tu­nity to ex­plain her fail­ure to pay dues.

CBC deputy chair­per­son Louise Buik­man said Mathi­bela had be­come a mem­ber of the Bar in 2014 and, like other new mem­bers, was ex­empt from pay­ing GCB dues for 12 months and Bar dues for 24 months.

She had not paid since those obli­ga­tions be­came due, Buik­man said, adding no ex­pla­na­tion had been pro­vided.

The CBC had re­peat­edly in­vited her to present her case but she had de­lib­er­ately failed to make her­self avail­able.

Buik­man also dis­puted Mathi­bela’s claims she would suf­fer ir­repara­ble harm if she was not re­in­stated as a mem­ber. There was also noth­ing stop­ping non-mem­bers from hold­ing briefs with mem­bers, Buik­man added.

The ap­pli­ca­tion stood down un­til Mon­day.

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