MASERU – A local transport company that is embroiled in a dispute with one lawyer is suing the Law Society of Lesotho for allegedly turning a blind eye to its grievances and failing to rein him in.
The Lesotho Public Motor Transport Company (LPMTC) filed an application in the High Court yesterday seeking an order to declare the Law Society’s “passive attitude to (its) grievances as professional negligence”.
The company also seeks an order to interdict Advocate Koili Ndebele from claiming costs awarded in any matter where it was cited or holding himself out as its legal representative.
Ndebele has in the past represented the LPMTC in various cases.
Law Society president, Zwelakhe Mda, said he could not comment because he was not aware that the society had been sued.
A majority shareholder in the company, by virtue of holding in trust shares of the Lesotho Bus and Taxi Owners Association (LBTOA) which established LPMTC over 30 years ago, Makalo Monare, told the High Court that the company reported Ndebele to the Law Society but the society had so far failed to act against the lawyer.
Monare who is a trustee has accused Ndebele of professional misconduct.
In the affidavit, Monare said on July 14 last year Ndebele “tampered unduly with the receipt book” of the LPMTC and “received monies to the tune of M5 600 and issued a receipt to one Joshua Selfu with “whom he had prepared an unlawful sub-lease agreement”.
“I inform this court that even the sub-lease of the said Joshua was illegally transacted encroaching the period of an earlier sub-lease of Isaacs Josephs and was prepared by the same Adv Ndebele,” Monare said.
He said Ndebele did not have the LPMTC board of directors’ authority to prepare the sub-lease agreement with Selfu.
“He then later on that day went to report to the Maseru Pitso Ground Police that he examined the receipt book of the second applicant (LPMTC) and found certain pages missing.
“This he did with Mr Moeketsi Tsatsanyane (managing director) after authoring a certain minute in the very same receipt book,” Monare said.
“He has since not prosecuted the matter for obvious reasons.”
Monare said at one time the company’s new lawyer, Jobo Lephuthing, was appearing in court in one of the company’s cases when Ndebele without any formal papers or application entered the court and said “his client had not authorised the proceedings and the matter had to be postponed”.
Monare also accuses Ndebele of sharing the office with the LPMTC, which is contrary to the Legal Practitioners Act that prohibits legal practitioners from sharing offices with non-lawyers.
He said in the first instance it was the company that allowed Ndebele to occupy its office because it was then “befitting to bail him out from rental at Carlton Centre”.
Ndebele was an intern lawyer in the office of Patrick Kgwadi Chambers, who were Monare’s lawyers, and following the departure of Kgwadi to Botswana “Ndebele was unable to pay rentals and LPMTC offered him space in its offices”.
Monare added: “I found myself in a quagmire after being served with a letter from the Law Society of Lesotho alerting us that it is wrong for an Advocate practising as such to share an office with taxi operators”.
“I was advised by Adv Ndebele to ignore that letter.”
Monare said even after the company instituted proceedings to eject him from the offices Ndebele refused to vacate the offices.
“I apply to this honourable court that appropriate steps be taken to help me out as I (can) no longer enter the office given that Adv Ndebele warned me not to touch my filing cabinet as I might lay my hands on his clients’ files.”
The allegations against Ndebele go deeper.
Monare alleges that the lawyer paid himself M10 000 worth of costs awarded to him, the company and Tsatsanyane in a case they won.
He said Ndebele (duped) lawyer Letuka Molati “into giving him the costs on simulated speculative authority from me.”
“His act of taking the costs awarded to me by the court of law for his beneficial use is not only a dishonest and disgraceful conduct but it constitutes theft and daylight robbery of the first order in the legal profession,” Monare said.
Molati’s letter confirming that he paid Ndebele M10 000 was attached to the affidavit.
Monare also accuses Ndebele of refusing to hand over the company’s court files “unless his legal fees are settled in full”.
He attached to the affidavit Ndebele’s bill totalling M119 600 “for all unfinished cases”.
Monare argues that Ndebele, being an advocate, is deprived by law of rights to demand payment from clients because that is the prerogative of attorneys.
He said the company terminated its mandate with attorneys AT Monyako & Company, who had appointed Ndebele
to appear for the company, but the advocate “has confiscated our files under the pretext that his legal fees be settled first”.
“Adv Ndebele has installed second applicant (LPMTC)’s letterheads in his office computer and is using same for sophistry reasons and writing of letters to places like Law Society to frustrate us and is even using our file secrets against us for his private personal vendettas,” Monare alleges.
Ndebele declined to comment saying the Lesotho Times should wait for him to file a replying affidavit in the High Court.