The National Association of Democratic Lawyers notes with dismay the regrettable statements made by Mr. Sihle Zikalala (MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs and Chairperson of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal) against Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi.
Advocate Ngcukaitobi represented disgruntled members of the ANC at the Pietermaritzburg High Court. Mr. Zikalala referred to Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi as a counter revolutionary and made unwarranted allegation against the advocate as colluding with counter-revolutionary forces and the “enemy” because the advocate has in the past represented members of other political organisations.
Members of the legal profession have the right to represent any client of their choice despite that client’s political affiliation. A lawyer may represent the views of his client and these views are not necessarily the views or opinions of the lawyer. This is a cornerstone upon which the independence of the legal profession is based.
Mr. Zikalala’s statements are of a serious and of a dangerous nature as it challenges the independence of the legal profession which is rooted in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. The sanctity of the independence of the legal profession is set out in the Lagos Principles of Law and further protected by the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, the International Covenant on civil and political rights. Such a statement offends against the principles of good governance including adherence to the rule of law, democracy and accountability.
Such an attack is neither warranted nor acceptable in a Constitutional dispensation such as ours and is seen in countries where democracy is on the decline. Attacking the independence of the legal profession is a tradition of the apartheid regime and has no place in a democratic society.
It is also an attack upon Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi’s character. We deem it apposite and appropriate at this stage to draw the attention of MEC Mr. Zikalala to the following abridged revolutionary credentials of Advocate Ngcukaitobi.
Advocate Ngcukaitobi grew up in the revolution and he has always associated himself with the poor and progressive forces of the revolution. He hails from the ranks of the ANC Youth League and SASCO at the University of Transkei where he later became the president of the Students Representative Council.
As a professional he has joined hands with NADEL and Advocates for Transformation. That would be enough to demonstrate that he has never been a counter revolutionary. Regrettable though we do not condemn it, the ANC was represented by white lawyers in the proceedings at this very time when we are battling with the issue of transformation and briefing patterns. We cannot understand why the applicants are being vilified by electing to be represented by black lawyers. It is on this basis that we insist that black lawyers must be accorded the same respect as accorded to their white, notable male counterparts.
We consider it especially dangerous as it could incite violence against Advocate Ngcukaitobi and other lawyers who represent opponents of the ANC especially in a province that is noted for political killings.
It is for these reasons that the National Association of Democratic Lawyers views such statements in an extremely serious light and implores Mr. Zikalala to withdraw his statement against Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi.
ISSUED ON BEHALF OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF DEMOCRATIC LAWYERS (NADEL), SOUTH AFRICA