Judges punish' lawyers with costs
MBABANE – The High Court has ‘punished’ lawyers with costs in their case against the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Prince Guduza.
A full bench of the High Court yesterday directed the Law Society of Swaziland, to pay costs at attorney and own client scale.
This, presiding Judge Mbutfo Mamba, said it was the court’s way of showing it’s displeasure in the manner in which the Society handled its case.
Judge Mamba sat with Judges Nkululeko Hlophe and Mumcy Dlamini.
The case, where the Law Society sought an order stopping the Parliament Select Committee from going ahead with an inquiry to investigate lawyers accused of stealing clients’ funds, was a non-starter yesterday.
The Society requested that the matter be postponed while it sought the services of a South African advocate to represent it.
The High Court issued an interim order stopping the select committee from proceeding with its investigations, pending finalisation of the case.
Advocate Lucas Maziya, who represented the Society, said he had been instructed that his client had not had sight of the select committee’s terms of reference until the past weekend.
He said upon getting hold of the terms of reference and mandate of the committee, it was seen proper to instruct counsel from South Africa.
Judge Mamba said the ruling granting the Society the desired postponement was made with reluctance. He explained that the decision was reached by the judges after considering the seriousness of the case.
"We strongly stress that the decision is made on the seriousness, gravity and the nature of the case. We are of the view that both sides should be given the opportunity to fully air their views," Mamba said.
He added, "The applicant (Law Society of Swaziland) is to pay wasted costs at attorney and own client scale.
"This is to register the displeasure of the court in the manner the applicant handled the case."
Motivating the application, Advocate Maziya said the Society would need a postponement of 10 days to secure the services of an advocate.
He said after having had sight of the Parliament Select Committee terms of reference, it was decided that a person who would approach the matter with a dispassionate mind was proper to represent the Society.
He said the case was very serious and required an approach with an open and compassionate mind.
"We, as lawyers, have an interest in the case. This matter is of constitutional importance, therefore, justice needs to prevail," Maziya said. He further said when the Society filed the application on June 25, 2012, they only relied on reports carried by the Times of Swaziland that there was a committee set up to investigate lawyers.
He said attempts were, in the meantime, being made to get hold of the select committee’s terms of reference, but they hit a snag.
He said they only received the terms of reference over the weekend.
Principal Crown Counsel from the Attorney General’s office, Mndeni Vilakati, opposed the application for postponement.
He argued that the timing of the application did not warrant the court to grant it. He said the application was filed yesterday morning, on the date allocated for hearing.
He quashed the lawyers’ submission that they had failed to acquire the terms of reference.
"The terms of reference were published in the press on June 28, 2012, and they have been in the public domain.
"That they did not read the newspaper should count against them. They have, however, said they relied on newspaper reports to file the application," Vilakati said.
Vilakati also argued that the application’s substance had not changed after receipt of the terms of reference.
He said they had, as initially, said the select committee was unconstitutional and ultra vires (beyond its powers). That is, he said, what they had said when the Society instructed Maziya.
The matter returns to court on Wednesday. The Law Society is to file its replying papers before tomorrow and heads of arguments on or before Tuesday.
‘Postponing case unfair to public’
MBABANE – Postponing the constitutional case between lawyers and Parliament would be prejudicial to members of the public, Senior Crown Counsel Mndeni Vilakati said.
Vilakati, who represented the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Prince Guduza and Ludzeludze MP Nonhlanhla Dlamini, made the statement when opposing the application by lawyers to postpone the case. He said prejudice was one of the principles governing applications for postponements. He argued that a postponement should not be prejudicial to either party and also to members of the public.
He addded that postponing the lawyers’ case against Parliament was going to be prejudicial to the members of the public because it was allocated to be presided over by a full bench.
"It is very difficult to get a hearing for a full bench. The court has had to set aside all other business for this matter and as such, the public is affected," Vilakati said.
He also submitted that Parliament was made to wait for 23 days to have the matter heard. He said Parliament filed its papers timeously, therefore, postponing the case would not be doing justice to the case.
"The Society has failed to make out a case for a postponement. In the event they are not ready to proceed today (yesterday), the matter should be struck off the roll and discharged. They may decide to reinstate the case on affidavit," Vilakati noted.
MPs praise Senior Crown Council Mndeni Vilakati
MBABANE – Senior Crown Counsel, Mndeni Vilakati, received praises from MPs for his performance against the Law Society of Swaziland.
"Cha usilwane, (you are no doubt good at what you do) Vilakati," said Ludzeludze MP Nonhlanhla Dlamini to Vilakati after his submissions.
She and other legislators could not hide that they were very impressed by his submissions when opposing the Society’s application to have the case postponed. Vilakati, from the Attorney General’s office, was representing the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Prince Guduza and MP Dlamini.
While Vilakati made submissions opposing the Society’s application for postponement, the legislators would nod showing support for his submissions.
When the judges adjourned the proceedings to prepare a ruling, the MPs went to shake hands with him saying they were awed by his submissions.
Mhlambanyatsi MP, Petros Mavimbela, said he was also very impressed with Vilakati and said it showed he had done his research.
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