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Zuma directs Minister to act on BLA complaints

Publish date: 17 July 2017
Issue Number: 4264
Diary: Legalbrief Today
Category: Practice

President Jacob Zuma has ‘directed’ Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha to ‘attend’ to concerns expressed during Friday’s protest action at the Union Buildings by the Black Lawyers Association (BLA) about state briefing patterns and government’s ‘distribution of legal work’ – which it claims sideline black and female legal practitioners, notes Pam Saxby for Legalbrief. However, a Presidency media statement announcing the move tends to suggest the President may not have been kept fully informed of ‘processes’ already ‘under way’ to transform the office of the State Attorney into government’s ‘legal firm of choice’. As Legalbrief Today previously reported, according to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s latest strategic plan, the post of Solicitor-General has been ‘pegged’ at the appropriate level for a candidate expected to tackle this task, while a policy on counsel briefing patterns should be operational by 2020. This is noting the need for measures aimed at attracting ‘the best legal practitioners’ to the State Attorney’s office; retaining them; and building the capacity to handle ‘complex legal matters’.

Meanwhile, the Presidency has seen fit to ‘encourage all arms of state and all spheres of government to prioritise and empower black lawyers, particularly women’. The legal fraternity is one of the ‘key sectors’ being ‘targeted’ as part of government’s radical socio-economic transformation programme – ‘in order to correct … uneven and unequal racial and gender representation’, notes Legalbrief. According to an eNCA report, the BLA has accused government of ‘selecting mostly white counsel and law firms’ to deal with its ‘numerous’ legal issues. In the view of BLA president Lutendo Sigogo, he and his colleagues ‘want to be exposed … (to) all levels of legal work’ so that they are ‘equipped and ready to lead this country’ not only as members of the judiciary, but as Ministers. The BLA described briefing of black advocates as the crumbs that had fallen from the trays of fully-fed white male advocates, according to a News24 report. The continued reluctance in giving legal work to black legal practitioners represented the continuation of the dehumanisation of black South Africans, Sigogo said. He added, according to a Polity report: ‘The President should facilitate co-ordination of distribution of state legal work through one central office, preferably the Solicitor-General, which will record and keep statistics of all the issued instructions or briefs. Such statistics will record the type of work, value of the instruction or brief, gender and race of the recipient,’ he is quoted as saying. The BLA also demanded that it be provided with a list of all panel attorneys which have been and will be given work by the state, its agencies, and municipalities across the country. It also demanded the full information of these briefed attorneys, their names, gender, race, and fees they have been paid.

Presidency statement

Department’s strategic plan

LSSA on Legal Practice Council

Full eNCA report

Full News24 report

Full Polity report