Fri, 29 May 2020

Seth Nthai can practise, Limpopo court rules

18 Jul 2019, 23:40 GMT+10

Lawyer Seth Nthai, who was struck from the roll of advocates under a cloud of controversy, will be allowed to practise again in terms of a ruling by the Limpopo High Court in Polokwane.

Nthai lodged an urgent application asking the court to allow him to practise again, pending the outcomes of any applications for leave to appeal or later appeals.

The court granted his application on Thursday.

At the same time, the court dismissed an application which the Johannesburg Society of Advocates (JSA) and Legal Practice Council (LPC) lodged for leave to appeal the ruling that allowed him to be readmitted as an advocate and to practise at all.

Court to hear application for leave to appeal against Seth Nthai's readmission as an advocate

It is not yet clear whether the JSA and LPC will approach the Supreme Court of Appeal for leave to appeal, but the ruling Nthai secured on Thursday means that he can still continue practising if they do so anyway.

Struck off the roll

Nthai was struck off the roll of advocates almost a decade ago after it was found that he had solicited a R5m payment from an Italian businessman. In a secret recording, he could be heard promising the businessman that he would convince the government to settle a matter in return for the R5m.

In May, the Limpopo High Court in Polokwane ruled that he could be readmitted as an advocate.

But the JSA and LPC lodged an application for leave to appeal the ruling.

Nthai also lodged the urgent application asking the court to order that the readmission order be executed in full pending the outcome of the application for leave to appeal, including future appeals.

In the leave to appeal application, the JSA argued that the public would suffer irreparable harm if Nthai was allowed to practise.

This was based on an anticipation that the public would be subjected to a legal practitioner who was ultimately found not to be fit and proper to practise.

But Judge President Ephraim Makgoba and Judge Peter Mabuse said the JSA and LPC's leave to appeal applications lacked merit.

"In our view there are no reasonable prospects of success on appeal and secondly, there are no valid reasons why appeal should be heard," they said.

The JSA also argued that, if Nthai returned to practise again, all the attorneys who brief him will be forced to terminate his services and find alternative lawyers if a later appeal succeeds.

But the judges said: "There is no merit in the aforesaid argument."

"More often than not, it happens in the course of any litigation that counsel's mandate is terminated for various reasons including illness, death, failure to pay counsel's fees and lack of proper instructions to counsel, that counsel on brief does not proceed with the matter with the result that another or new counsel is briefed to proceed with the matter at hand.

"In our view, it is possible to replace Nthai in whatever matter he would be handling should the appeal court ultimately overrun this court's order of readmission."

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