BLA: The government has no regard for black legal practitioners



The report by the Sunday Times Newspaper, that President Zuma’s Counsel is Advocate Jeremy Gauntlett SC did not come as a shock to the Black Lawyers Association (BLA). It was just a confirmation that the black government led by black a president does not have confidence in the ability of the black legal practitioners. It has shown over time that it has no any regard to the competency of black legal practitioners, it ably demonstrated this by briefing the same white male counsel on all serious matters. We fully support the statement by the Chairperson of the Advocates for Transformation, Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza SC that ‘this proved that the presidency has no faith in black advocates.’ President Zuma as the first citizen of the country is expected to lead by example when it comes to transformation of the legal profession and affirmative action of the previously disadvantaged legal practitioners, which are all policies of the ANC led government.

BLA is tired of the rhetoric on how a black lawyer was “a complete rounded lawyer” by government representatives when the lawyer has passed on. It cannot be correct that Black lawyers are only appreciated and called all fancy names in their funerals and memorial services irrespective of the fact that they die destitute due to lack of proper briefs by the same government which see it fitting to render beautiful eulogies. Black legal practitioners must be acknowledged and acclaimed through appropriate briefs when they are still alive.

Black legal practitioners have been tolerant and understanding the undermining and the insults associated with the continued disregard of their ability and worth by the state. In words the representatives of the state say one thing whereas their deeds actually reflect the opposite when it comes to briefing of black legal practitioners, particularly the black advocates. We are continually informed that the big amount of the government litigation work goes to black advocates. We do not see the beneficiaries of those briefs and we are not told how much such briefs are worth in terms of rand value. Now is the time that the black legal professionals should say enough is enough and demand that the state as the biggest legal services’ consumer must live up to its expectation. It must be clear to government departments, parastatals and the office of the state attorney that the time of, talk shows, speeches and empty promises is gone now is the time for delivery of meaningful instructions and briefs.

Every person starting from opposition representatives in parliament to soccer fields and taxi tanks has been consistent that President Zuma must pay back the money. We understand that a black advocate has advised the President sometimes ago to pay back the money, but his advice was ignored. We do not understand what have now changed. Was it waiting for a white male silk to say that he must pay back the money? If that is so, then this, unfortunately does not reflect badly on the poor black legal practitioners but on the office of the presidency and those who advise him.

If the President cannot lead by example and brief black counsel how then are we supposed to expect the white dominated corporate world to brief the black legal practitioners. When the black government took power in 1994 the marginalised black legal practitioners hoped that things will changed for the better, little did they know that the more things change the more they remain the same.
The end,

Lutendo Benedict Sigogo
President of the Black Lawyers Association
Tel: (015) 962 0712 – Cell: (082) 369 2017
8 February 2016