• PABASA is “disheartened” that the Section 194 investigation of public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane showed the fees her office paid to several lawyers.
  • One of the questions the survey needs to answer is whether Mkhwebane committed wrongdoing or demonstrated incompetence for “intentional or grossly negligent failure to prevent unsuccessful and wasteful and / or unauthorized public expenses in legal fees”.
  • Attorney Dali Mpofu SC has been paid over Rand 12 million for representing Mkhwebane over the past three years, with little success in court.

The Pan-African Bar Association of South Africa (PABASA) is “disheartened” that the Parliament’s Section 194 investigation brought evidence of attorney fees paid to several lawyers, arguing that it caused “selective, sensationalist and unfair criticism in against the lawyer involved “.

Many of the lawyers cited in the Section 194 investigation of Parliament as paid by the Public Protector are members of PABASA.

The Section 194 committee investigating Mkhwebane’s suitability for office heard last week that Mpofu was paid over Rand 12 million for representing Mkhwebane over three years, with little success.

Last week, just a day after attorney Nazreen Bawa led the testimony of the senior manager of legal services of public protector Neels van der Merwe, Mkhwebane and Mpofu suffered another defeat in court: an entire college of Alta The Western Cape Court rejected Mpofu’s offer to push for the immediate restoration of Mkhwebane, despite the Constitutional Court being called upon to hear the High Court’s argument over the annulment of his suspension by President Cyril Ramaphosa on November 24.

Generated by a series of judicial losses, often with fierce sentences against Mkhwebane, one of the questions before the committee is whether Mkhwebane has committed misconduct or demonstrated incompetence “by intentionally or grossly negligent failure to prevent unnecessary, wasteful and / or unauthorized public spending on legal fees “.

READ | Like Mkhwebane, he paid out millions to supporters who shared his political interests

Aside from escalating legal fees, evidence before the committee revealed that Mkhwebane sought to ensure that supporters representing her – including Mpofu, Thabani Masuku, Vuyani Ngalwana and Muzi Sikhakhane – “can fight without (sic) interest at heart. “.

All of these supporters represent or have represented former president Jacob Zuma or have supported his cause in litigation. They are also all members of PABASA.

Masuku received 4.5 million rupees in legal fees from the public pimp, Sikhakhane received 4.7 million rupees, and Ngalwana – who represented the Democracy in Action group that paid the Mkhwebane Reserve Bank cost order through the crowdfunding – received 4.7 million rupees.

Evidence prior to the investigation also shows that Paul Ngobeni, a US justice fugitive who is not allowed to practice law in South Africa, was paid thousands of rand for “legal advice” and communications services, including attack articles. against the judges who ruled against Mkhwebane, from the legal services budget through Seanego Attorneys.

Ngobeni subcontracted RET commentators Kim Heller and Professor Sipho Seepe for “communications services” – for which he billed Seanego Attorneys.

READ | The “fugitive” and analysts: investigation evidence shows Mkhwebane’s PR campaign to attack the SA judiciary

They ran a media campaign praising Mkhwebane as the “public protector of the people” and criticizing the courts that ruled against her.

The fact that they had been paid R120 000 for this campaign was not openly stated and their support for Mkhwebane was presented as an “independent” and “not captured” analysis.

In a statement released over the weekend, PABASA said it noticed a social media screenshot of the fees “apparently paid to a selection of individual attorneys and attorneys for legal services rendered to the Public Protector’s Office.”


Kim Heller, pictured in 2014.

“PABASA fully accepts the importance of transparency in the way public funds are used. However, PABASA is seriously concerned by the screenshot and the inaccurate and harmful message it conveys,” the statement read.

They say that while the public funds used for litigation are “obviously an issue that requires adequate transparency”, it is pointless and misleading to simply establish the total fees paid to each practitioner without the critical context, including the period in question, the number of cases and the time spent on cases.

“Presenting information in this way in public hearings that are screened live inevitably allows public information to be presented out of context, with all the damaging consequences that come with it.”

READ | KFC “poison” and attacks on judges: the investigation hears evidence of the “capture” of the RET by the public protector

PABASA is also concerned that the list presented to the committee excludes white lawyers informed by the Public Protector.

“We listened to the evidence prior to the investigation and noted that the evidence leader explained that the spreadsheet only describes those consultants who had” earned a significant amount of money or more money or alternatively where they have been involved in cases that is (sic) before this commission in one way or another, so there are many advisors who have been informed that they are not on this list. ‘

“But what is very worrying is that by listing the names of a select group of black-only lawyers who have represented the Public Protector in a variety of matters of varying complexity and duration, it creates the impression that the lawyers listed are somehow accomplices in the looting of public funds “.

However, while the screengrab distributed by people outside the trial did not include the names of white lawyers, the full list shown to the committee by Bawa included the name of a white lawyer, the late lawyer Paul Kennedy SC, who was a defendant in a case of child sex trafficking, in which he was charged with rape and sexual assault when he died in February of this year.

PABASA said it accepts the need for comprehensive evidence for the parliamentary investigation, but the “unfortunate way” it was conducted has “a direct and negative impact on the public perception of the professional integrity of the lawyer listed in the spreadsheet and ignores the commercial reality that consultants provide a service – in exchange for a reasonable fee that reflects their expertise, experience, knowledge and skills “.

“It is part of the groundless narrative of the black lawyer ‘displacing the state’, reflecting the stereotypes we continue to see in the media and the profession. This now has to stop.

“Supporters shouldn’t be equated with clients they represent or vilified for doing so.”

The conduct of Mpofu, who has represented Mkhwebane since the beginning of his defense in Stalingrad against parliamentary accountability, is under scrutiny after he abandoned Section 194 proceedings two weeks ago after the committee refused his time-delay request. undetermined. He said that was where his mandate ended, but Mkhwebane said he had not withdrawn the legal representation mandate.

The investigation will continue on Wednesday.

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