Sunday World

Minister may lose posh home over legal debt

Minister’s home on the line if lawyer wins bid for judgment

- By George Matlala

Minister in the Presidency for women, youth and persons with disabiliti­es Maite Nkoana-mashabane could be the next public official to personally pay heavily for poor leadership in office.

A lawyer who previously represente­d Nkoana-mashabane in a matter when she was rural developmen­t and land reform minister wants her two properties – one of which is in the posh Pecanwood Estate in Hartbeespo­ort Dam – to be attached to cover a legal bill of over R480 000.

In August 2019, the Land Claims Court in Cape Town slapped Nkoana-mashabane with a cost order for failing to adequately prepare a plan to redevelop District Six by the court’s deadline.

Nkoana-mashabane also failed in her bid to appeal the decision in March last year, with the court ordering the head of the State Attorney (government lawyers) and the Legal Practice Council to probe whether any funds belonging to the state had been used to pay her private attorney.

It has since emerged that Agricultur­e, Land Reform and Rural Developmen­t Minister Thoko Didiza refused for the department to pay for Nkoana-mashabane’s legal fees.

On Monday, Mafona Ramothwala, of the law firm that represente­d Nkoana-mashabane in her appeal of the cost order, filed papers in the High Court in Pretoria seeking her provisiona­l sequestrat­ion.

In his founding affidavit, Ramothwala said Nkoana-mashabane was “hopelessly insolvent” and that she had failed to demonstrat­e that she genuinely wanted to settle the debt.

This was after Nkoana-mashabane wrote a letter to Ramothwala in March requesting to make “reasonable monthly amounts of R5 000 and will over time increase the amount with a bigger lump sum” to settle the bill.

But Ramothwala rejected the offer, saying that allowing Nkoana-mashabane to trade with unsuspecti­ng members of the public was detrimenta­l. “The respondent considers herself to be above the law and does not consider judgments against her to be of any importance or appreciate the implicatio­ns thereof,” he said.

Nkoana-mashabane had intially succeeded in getting the Office of the State Attorney to represent her in the appeal.

In August 2019, acting director-general of the department of women, youth and persons with disabiliti­es Reshoketsw­e Tshabalala wrote to the State Attorney, arguing that Nkoana-mashabane was entitled to be represente­d by the state since she was involved in the matter in her official capacity. But in a meeting earlier that month, Didiza had indicated she would comply with the court judgment that said Nkoana-mashabane should pay her bill.

“The Minister of Agricultur­e, Rural Developmen­t and Land Reform (Didiza) indicated she intended to comply with the judgment of (Tembeka) Ngcukaitob­i in relation to costs, whereas minister Mashabane seeks to oppose the same on the basis that she is ordered to pay costs in her personal capacity notwithsta­nding the fact that she was acting in her official capacity as the minister of rural developmen­t and land reform. This creates a conflict of interest in that two ministers of the state cannot be represente­d by the same office of the state attorney where they are holding opposite positions”. The Office of the State Attorney had in August 2019 agreed to appoint Ramothwala but later reversed the decision after Nkoana-mashabane lost the appeal. Nkoana-mashabane’s chief of staff Sipho Seakamela said they were opposing the matter and would argue that Ramothwala had offered to do the work for free and that the advocates he used were already paid.

Respondent does not consider judgments against her to be important

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 ?? /Gallo Images ?? Maite Nkoana-mashabane is faces yet another court battle, this time over unpaid legal bill.
/Gallo Images Maite Nkoana-mashabane is faces yet another court battle, this time over unpaid legal bill.

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