Legal Services Charter Aims to Improve Justice and Is Not Executive Meddling

Article excerpt

BYLINE: Zolile Nqayi

Paul Hoffman ("Legal professions must stay free of executive interference", September 12) makes unsubstantiated claims to support his contention of executive interference in the legal profession.

He boldly charges that the Draft Legal Services Charter "has been prepared and published without consultation by a team from a Department of Justice and Con- stitutional Development steering committee".

It is the government's mandate to deal with matters of policy and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development is mandated to deal with matters pertaining to the administration of justice.

While the department will not shy away from fulfilling this constitutional role, it has chosen to proceed with the matter of the development of a Legal Services Charter through the dialogue and consultation route. This is why the steering committee is made up, predominantly, of independent legal practitioners.

From the beginning, when minister Brigitte Mabandla convened an exploratory meeting in December 2004, stakeholders in the legal services sector have been integral to the process of developing a draft charter.

The department's role has only been to enable the process.

Contrary to Hoffman's claims, the steering committee that prepared and drafted the charter is composed of legal professionals from different associations and organisations within the profession.

The members of the committee are affiliated to associations and organisations which include: the Law Societies of South Africa, Independent Advocates' Association, Centre for Applied Legal Studies, Advocates for Transformation, Black Lawyers' Association, Black Woman Lawyers' Association, National Paralegal Institute, Waweth Policy Research Agency, Centre for African Renaissance Studies and the General Council of the Bar.

The members of the committee are: chairperson: Menzi Simelane; deputy chairperson: Bonisiwe Makhene; Brenda Madumisa; Kevin Lester; Ashoek Adhikari; McCaps Motimele SC; Mark Hawyes; Nano Matlala; Professor Shadrack Gutto; Professor Cathi Albertyn; Thuli Madonsela; Motlai Mashiloane; and Norman Arendse (who has since resigned).

Only two members are officials of the department. It is important to note that none of the members of the drafting team is from the department. To suggest that departmental officials prepared the draft is to insult the professionalism and standing of those legal professionals who did. …