The Black Lawyers Association (BLA) president Lutendo Sigogo has echoed that their white male counterparts still receive more money than black lawyers and woman lawyers.
BLA on Friday urged President Jacob Zuma to urgently set up a commission of inquiry to establish why they get sidelined on the lucrative South African government’s numerous court cases, which they say are specifically given to white attorneys and law firms.
BLA members embarked on a protest march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Friday.
“We demand the following … that the president [Zuma] establishes a judicial commission of inquiry on the root cause of why state departments, state-owned enterprises and municipalities continue to appoint white male legal practitioners above their black and women counterparts, notwithstanding the presence of legal framework which requires them to prefer women and black legal practitioners,” BLA president Lutendo Sigogo said in Pretoria.
They handed a memorandum to Mandla Feri, a chief director responsible for corporate services in the Presidency.
“The president should facilitate coordination 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,” Sigogo read out the demands in the memorandum.
“The president [should] give directive to all state departments, state-owned enterprises and municipalities to issue briefs, and to distribute legal work in line with the provisions of the economic empowerment legal framework.”
“We require the response to our demands from the office of the State president within a period of 30 calendar days,” said Sigogo as he handed the memorandum to Feri to sign.
Sigogo said his association was now demanding that Zuma intervene and “use his powers” to influence government departments and municipalities to brief black attorneys as well when it came to matters before the courts.
“This matter impacts on everyone. We expect lawyers to become judges or ministers one day, but if you are not being given quality briefs as you grow in the profession, and you happen to become a judge, you are going to judge on issues you were not exposed to,” Sigogo said.
“We want to be exposed in all levels of legal work so that we are equipped and ready to lead this country in terms of the judiciary and everywhere we can be requested to lead.”
He said there were statistics that proved that “white legal professionals” continued to get the lion’s share of legal briefs from the South African government.
“Even if you are briefed with them, they still receive more money than black lawyers and women lawyers. We need that to be done away with,” said Sigogo.
Police escorted the small crowd of protesters, as they made their way on to the lawn area of the Union Buildings. Wearing their black court robes and waving placards, the lawyers sang and danced, chanting slogans as they waited for an official from the Presidency to receive their memorandum.
A statement from the BLA said the protest was directed at Zuma as the head of state because the state was the biggest consumer of legal services in the country.