City advocate ‘bullied’ out of bar council
Challenge to termination
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.
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.