Parly probe on lawyers stopped
MBABANE – The Law Society of Swaziland has stopped the Speaker of Parliament Prince Guduza from investigating lawyers for alleged misconduct, albeit on an interim basis.
High Court Judge Mumcy Dlamini yesterday granted the lawyers’ body an interim order stopping the Parliament Select Committee from inviting the public to lodge their complaints.
This came after the Law Society of Swaziland filed an urgent application yesterday afternoon.
Prince Guduza and MP Nonhla-nhla Dlamini from Ludzeludze, the committee’s Chairperson, have been called to file responding papers explaining why the committee should not be permanently interdicted before July 16, 2012, when the matter returns to court.
The house of assembly recently set up an MP Nonhlanhla Dlamini-led select committee to investigate lawyers on allegations of misappropriating clients’ funds and it invited the public to lodge complaints. Members of the public had already begun making submissions before the five-member committee.
Law Society of Swaziland’s President Titus Mlangeni, in an affidavit, has alleged that there was no law allowing Parliament to investigate the lawful operations of members of the legal profession.
He alleged that the committee set up to take the complaints from the public and investigate them by summoning the implicated lawyers, was unlawful, arbitrary, irrational and illegitimate.
Mlangeni also submitted that such was beyond the committee’s powers.
He argued that Parliament, in setting up the committee, did not engage the Law Society to address the issues of concern, as a stakeholder in the regulation and control of the legal profession. He said this included the discipline of lawyers when accused of misconduct through a mechanism provided by the law.
Mlangeni argued that the process would not serve any good purpose except to unlawfully and unnecessarily embarrass lawyers without just and lawful cause.
He alleged the society had written to Prince Guduza about the concerns, but there was no response.
He said they had expected that Prince Guduza would respond to the letter and engage the society, assuming that the decision was legitimately set up to protect the members of the public as alleged.
He said there was no other body, structure or institution, besides the Law Society of Swaziland, endowed with the authority to regulate the operations of lawyers.
"Not even the honourable House of Assembly as a representative of the people," Mlangeni alleged.
He said the Law Society was established in terms of the Legal Practitioners Act of 1964 and all enrolled and admitted people were its members. He said the act stipulated that law society members would be regulated and controlled by it.
He argued that the question of allegations of misuse of trust funds fell within the arena of regulation, which was the Law Society of Swaziland’s exclusive domain, under the disciplinary provisions of the act.
"Parliament as all other institutions of government and its agencies is bound by the law. It cannot operate outside the parameters of law no matter how controversial and urgent a matter may appear to it. Such is a check and balance of a society governed by law, especially where there is a written constitution," Mlangeni said.
The Law Society of Swaziland was represented by Advocate Lucas Maziya on instruction from lawyer Lucky Howe, while Bheki Tsabedze appeared on behalf of the Attorney General.
‘Parly has no powers in matter’
MBABANE – "Under the Constitution, the powers of Parliament are limited to the making of law and acting as an oversight body."
This has been alleged by the Law Society of Swaziland in its court papers where it sought to stop Parliament from proceeding with the investigation of lawyers for alleged misuse of clients’ funds, for which a select committee has been established.
"There is nothing in the Constitution or any other law that authorises Parliament to investigate or regulate the conduct or misconduct of members of the legal profession," President Titus Mlangeni said in an affidavit.
He said the Speaker of Parliament Prince Guduza and Ludzeludze Member of Parliament (MP) Nonhlanhla Dlamini had unlawfully exceeded their constitutional powers.
Dlamini was elected the Chairperson of the Select Committee set up to investigate the lawyers and accept complaints from the public.
Mlangeni also said, in a country where the Constitution is supreme, no agency, authority, or person could exercise power unless authorised by the Constitution. He said the exercise set up by Parliament was not constitutional.
He argued that members of the Law Society of Swaziland had a constitutional right to practice their profession independently without interference from Prince Guduza and MP Nonhlanhla.
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