A Thohoyandou-based legal practitioner caused consternation in the Limpopo High Court after it was ruled he had acted as an attorney since 2011 without the necessary certificates in place. This may mean that the outcome of dozens of cases can now be challenged, and trials will have to restart, says a report on the Zoutnet site. In a circular, Limpopo Judge President Ephraim Makgoba called on other legal practitioners not to ‘jump the gun’ and try to challenge cases but to wait for the SCA to rule on the matter. He pointed out that the High Court ruling has serious ramifications – for example in divorce matters, the parties would now stay married to each other. In cases where money has been claimed and execution proceedings have taken place, such transactions may have to be reversed. Even criminal cases where the legal practitioner appeared on behalf of clients may have to be re-opened and trials will have to start afresh. Makgoba said the respondents in the case had filed a petition with the SCA.
The lawyer’s conduct was at issue in a case between NW Civil Contractors and Anton Ramaano Inc and the Thohoyandou Sheriff of the Court. Judge Legodi Phathudi made his ruling on 14 May, notes the Zoutnet report. The respondents in the original case (dating back to September 2016), Ramaano and the sheriff, complained that the applicant (NW Civil Contractors), had been represented by an attorney who, at the time, did not have a fidelity fund certificate issued by the Law Society. Ramaano and the sheriff took the matter to the High Court, requesting the proceedings be declared null and void. Vhutshilo Licollin Nange, from Thohoyandou, admitted in court papers that he had practised without a fidelity fund certificate since 2011. Lawyers representing his former client argued that the Attorney’s Act does not prohibit an attorney without a fidelity fund certificate from practising. Such a person will simply not be entitled to receive any compensation while acting for clients. Phathudi did not agree and quoted section 41 of the Attorney’s Act which clearly states such a pre-condition. Section 83(10) of the Act further states that any person ‘who directly or indirectly purports to act as a practitioner or to practise on his or her own account or in partnership without being in possession of a fidelity fund certificate, shall be guilty of an offence’.