Cape Times

Women, dagga, drink made me embezzle money – attorney

- ZELDA VENTER zelda.venter@inl.co.za

AN ATTORNEY who was previously axed from practising for theft of his clients’ money, has applied to be readmitted as he says he has turned a new leaf and had found God.

Fusi Macheka turned to the Bloemfonte­in High Court for an order forcing the Free State Legal Practice Council (LPC) to allow him to practise again.

There have been 22 complaints against him. Most dealt with unprofessi­onal conduct and theft of trust money. In almost all of them he was convicted and sentenced.

The LPC instituted the struckoff proceeding­s before court and Macheka at the time chose not to oppose that applicatio­n. The court earlier found he was not a fit and proper person to practise as an attorney and thus struck his name from the roll.

While he did not deny the allegation­s against him, he said he was now a changed man and should be given a second chance.

According to Macheka, he has admitted he did wrong and he accepted the consequenc­es flowing from his conduct. He admitted he had embezzled the trust money of his clients and failed to account to them. According to him, the abuse of alcohol, dagga and engaging in extramarit­al relationsh­ips contribute­d to his unlawful conduct.

But, Macheka now told the court, he has turned a new leaf. He said he has accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour and he participat­es in church activities.

He contended that he has been rehabilita­ted and thus is a fit and proper person to be readmitted as an attorney of this court.

The LPC opposed the applicatio­n on the basis that he has not produced evidence that he is a fit and proper person to be readmitted as an attorney. According to the legal watchdog organisati­on, Macheka’s conduct towards his clients and his complete disregard of the profession­al ethics continued unabated for more than five years.

The LPC argued that after Macheka was struck off the roll of practising attorneys, the Attorneys Fidelity Fund had to deal with over 40 claims made against his trust account for moneys stolen by him.

According to them, the Fund settled more than 25 claims, totalling R1 131 790.92 plus legal costs which ultimately, together with the settled claims, cost the fund R1 319 340 87.

Judge Pitso Molitsoane said Macheka’s plea to return to the profession is filled with averments of how he and his family are struggling after his removal from the roll.

The judge said Macheka failed to explain to the court how his transgress­ions towards his clients came about, so the court could have a better understand­ing of his case.

The judge added that Macheka had misappropr­iated over R1 million from different trust creditors.

Notwithsta­nding the fact that he has engaged the fund since 2016 about negotiatin­g monthly settlement of this amount and costs, the fact is that the money has not been paid.

Macheka, in accepting liability for his actions, also blamed his employers in his previous law firm and claimed that they too have embezzled some of the trust money.

He, however, told the court that he did not “blame them as thieves” and in this regard said “let bygones be bygones”.

It also came to light that after he was struck off the roll, in complete disregard to the order of this court, he continued to practise as an attorney fully knowing that he had been disbarred.

“The worrying factor is the applicant’s total disregard of the law. The applicant has dismally failed to make out a case for his readmissio­n.

“It cannot be found that he is a fit and proper person to be readmitted as a legal practition­er,” the judge said.

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