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ADVOCATE DEMANDS MPS’ APOLOGY, LSS COMPLAINT WITHDRAWAL

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MBABANE – Drama unfolded at the High Court yesterday when Advocate Gareth Leppan demanded that MPs Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube apologise or withdraw their complaint against him to the Law Society of Swaziland (LSS).

The advocate was speaking to the members of Parliament’s (MPs) advocate, Jacobus Van Vuuren, before the start of the matter, who in turn informed the accused persons. The complaint was about the South African advocate’s, who represents the Crown, alleged unfitness to prosecute in their trial. A member of the mPs’ legal team said the advocate was not pleased with the letter that the MPs wrote to the law society, in which they stated that they failed to understand how he was prosecuting in their case. The attorney said the advocate wanted the MPs to apologise and withdraw the complaint they lodged with the law society because it was an attack on his person.  

Advocate Leppan had previously sent a memorandum to the director of public prosecutions (DPP) before the start of the trial and raised certain concerns pertaining to the MPs’ case. The MPs refused to withdraw the complaint. In fact, MP Mabuza was overheard saying there was nothing to apologise for or to withdraw. Mabuza said: “Lona (advocate) wabhala ngami, mine ngafundza ku media ngingamati. Aka withdrawe loko kucala (I did not know him, and he wrote about me and I read about it in the media. He must withdraw that first)”
In the MPs’ letter to the law society, Mabuza and Dube said: “We fail to understand how the same advocate who wrote a memorandum to the DPP, stating that they have no case against us, now works on prosecuting the same case.  To us this is purely unethical and lacks integrity. As a matter of fact, it should even be criminal.”

Rainwater

At the High Court yesterday, where the trial was scheduled to resume at 9:30am after being postponed in December, the matter did not take off. The MPs arrived at the High Court just after 9:30am but they entered the courtroom at 10:10am. It was reported that there was rainwater along the basement tunnels that are used by accused persons to enter and exit courtrooms.
When Mabuza and Dube entered the courtroom, heavily guarded by Correctional and Operational Support Services Unit (OSSU) officers, their representatives and the Crown’s were engaged in discussion over the issue of the complaint they lodged with the law society. Judge Mumcy Dlamini was at the time not present in court. Mabuza and Dube’s legal team comprises, among others, Advocate Jacobus Van Vuuren and Ben J. Simelane. Others are Michael Tsabedze, Mhleli Mabuza and Sicelo Mngomezulu.

The representatives of both parties proceeded to Judge Dlamini’s chambers after about 30 minutes of their discussion. At 10:42am, the court orderly collected the case file from the courtroom, raising curiosity among those in court that the matter might not proceed. The attorneys returned at 11:25am and the MPs’ representatives, together with the accused persons, went to another courtroom for purposes of consulting shortly afterwards. When they came back, everyone was of the belief that the judge would come to court and the matter would continue.  However, this was not to be as the legal representatives for both parties left again for the judge’s chambers at noon. They returned at 12:30pm and five minutes later, Judge Dlamini arrived in the courtroom.

Judge Dlamini said the matter ought to have proceeded at 9:30am but that did not happen because both counsel approached her in chambers. She said Advocate Leppan raised a concern following an article that was published in the Times of Eswatini on December 15, 2021, indicating that there was a complaint lodged with the law society.  The complaint, according to the judge, among others, was that the advocate was allegedly unfit for the office, according to MPs Mabuza and Dube. Judge Dlamini said both counsel agreed that this affected the progress of the trial at the end of the day.  “In other words, it becomes an interlocutory matter whether counsel for the Crown (Advocate Leppan) is fit to proceed with the matter. It transpired that this matter is pending before the law society,” said the judge.

According to Judge Dlamini, the registrar of the High Court contacted the law society on its decision on the complaint raised by Mabuza and Dube regarding the fitness or otherwise of Advocate Leppan. The law society, said the judge, informed the registrar that they would deliberate on the complaint raised by the MPs within the course of this week. Judge Dlamini also stated that she had been advised by the MPs’ counsel that the legislators themselves were pursuing the complaint with the law society. “By consent of both counsel, it became evident that this trial cannot continue pending the decision of the law society as to whether or not the counsel for the Crown is fit to appear in this matter,” said Judge Dlamini. The judge mentioned that consequently, the matter was postponed to February 15, 2022.  Following that the MPs’ complaint to the law society infringed on the progress of the trial, said the judge, by consent of both counsel, the law society was to deliberate on the matter and communicate its decision not later than February 4, 2022.

Removal

In their complaint, MPs Mabuza and Dube stated that they wanted the law society to facilitate the removal of Advocate Leppan, from prosecuting in their matter. The two incarcerated MPs raised a number of concerns about Advocate Leppan. In the letter titled ‘Unethical admission of Advocate Gareth Leppan’, they informed the law society that they brought the matter to it as the lawful institution that dealt with the admission of lawyers and advocates who could practise law in the courts of Eswatini. They highlighted that in the memorandum directed to the DPP dated August 10, 2020, Advocate Leppan stated: “Having perused available material thus far, it is apparent that there is no source of evidence that proves the case against one or more of the suspects. We are honourable MPs who have little knowledge of the law, but we do from time to time seek clarity from our legal team and others. From where we stand, we understand that for Advocate Leppan to be able to practise in Eswatini, on this case in particular, he must have moved a petition which the Law Society of Swaziland must have not objected to.”

They informed the law society that in their opinion, the advocate had been unethically and unlawfully admitted. Dube and Mabuza said as members of the august House, they worked and believed ethics were important and played an integral part when one executed his or her own duties. “We, therefore, write to seek an inquest by the Law Society of Swaziland in this matter. We are further making means to deliver a similar letter to the Pietermaritzburg Society of Advocates in the Republic of South Africa for an investigation of this matter,” reads part of their letter. Mabuza and Dube said they strongly believed that the admission of Advocate Leppan to practise as an advocate in the kingdom should be terminated.  They stated that Eswatini could not be a banana country where people practised merely because they were paid big cheques.

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