The lawyers believe they were not given a fair chance to answer for themselves before a ruling was handed down.
The scores of lawyers who were condemned by acting Judge Hein Brauckmann of the Mpumalanga High Court more than three weeks ago are now appealing the order that the Judge made against them not to be paid by their clients.
Court papers seen by 013NEWS this week show lawyers Simon Setsoalo and Tshepo Rampatla are approaching the Supreme Court of Appeal to have the Brauckmann order set aside.
The two Mpumalanga senior attorneys said the judge “erred” when finding that they violated Covid-19 lockdown rules when appearing before him without permits on 31 March 2020.
They say they did have the permits on the day – and were issued by themselves as CEOs of their respective law firms.
Setsoalo and Rampatla say Brauckmann didn’t afford the matter the chance to be heard by the court, including informing them that he would make an order in the matter – to afford them “a fair process before adjudication”.
“In doing so, he violated our rights as enshrined in Section 34 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa,” the two said in court papers dated 18 April 2020.
Both Setsoalo and Rampatla were part of the 10 lawyers, that included four advocates, who arrived at the Mpumalanga High Court sitting in Middelburg on 31 March 2020 – 5 days after President Cyril Ramaphosa imposed the national lockdown – to represent their clients in an urgent matter brought over the ongoing issues at the troubled JS Moroka local municipalility in Siyabuswa.
The Judge said 9 of the 10 lawyers didn’t have proper permits and had now ordered that they be reported to the Legal Practice Council. He had also ordered that they be not paid by their respective clients.
Brauckmann said Setsoalo could not produce the permit when he asked him to do so on 31 March 2020 in court. Rampatla also “travelled illegally” from Belfast to Middelburg court, the Judge said – traveling without a permit as did the other lawyers who travelled from Tshwane to Middelburg on the day, putting the people of Mpumalanga at risk of getting the virus from Gauteng travellers.
All criminal trials have been suspended in South Africa since the lockdown began on 26 March 2020. Civil matters are only accepted when they are “urgent and essential”, and brought by lawyers who have the proper permits that comply with state regulations, said Brauckmann.
But Setsoalo and Rampatla are not convinced. They say Brauckmann first of all didn’t inform them that he would issue orders against them. Informing them would have allowed them the chance to present their side of the story before the Judge issued the order, they say.
Setsoalo said when he was afforded the opportunity to provide a permit within court he explained to the Judge that the permit was in a vehicle that had in the meantime left. Brauckmann in his judgement also said so, and also that he found another permit in his office that had been submitted by Setsoalo – dated 1 April 2020 and issued by the director of Legal Practice Council.
Setsoalo said they will challenge the judgement that they were supposed to be in possession of permits issued by the director of Legal Practice Council because the regulations by co-operative governance minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma state it very clear that owners of companies doing essential services should issue permits, which the lawyers themselves did as directors of their respective law firms.
“It will be much more clearer that the court did not request us the opportunity to produce the documents,” they say in the court papers.
“The judge should have found that we were in possession of either the certificate or the permit as issued by ourselves in our capacities as CEOs of our respective private law firms,” Setsoalo and Rampatla said.
They are not happy with the judgement and want a fair hearing on the matter. They want the case No:1170/2020 to be heard by the Supreme Court of Appeals or a full bench of the Mpumalanga High Court.
(edited by ZK)
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