Protest march by lawyers closes Mthatha courts
Attorneys and advocates in Mthatha took the morning off on Monday to march through the CBD to demand cases from the government.
Courts came to a halt for the morning.
Later in the day, Mthatha deputy state attorney Johan van Schalkwyk told the Dispatch he was throwing in the towel and heading back to the state attorney’s office in Gauteng.
The protetstors’ representative, attorney Sinawo Makangela, said: “The department of justice, the NPA and all relevant stakeholders have been informed about our march today. We have prepared a memorandum which will be received by a representative from the national department of justice. We have followed the law to the letter.
“We are determined to be heard. Our demands are clear. This is a revolution,” said Makangela.
Van Schalkwyk was central to their complaints.
When the legal practitioners arrived at his office, he was videoed by the Dispatch running into the nearby NPA offices.
In their memo, the lawyers demanded that Van Schalkwyk be removed from his position, accusing him of not paying them timeously.
They also charged him with giving all litigation cases involving the government, especially education, health and police departments, to “white Johannesburg” firms. They also accused him of being racist.
Van Schalkwyk denied to the Dispatch that he was a racist and said that the delayed payments were not of his doing.
“There are processes that need to be followed when making payments and the problems there are created by the attorneys themselves.
“They are doing all this because they want me out because I have uncovered corruption and fraud within my office and attorneys around Mthatha.”
Van Schalkwyk admitted he was not briefing local attorneys but said this was because they were over reaching.
“You give them an elementary case in the magistrate’s court and they will postpone it 14 times even though there are no prospects of success. By doing that our clients, the departments, end up paying huge amounts of money.
“We also have a problem of severe capacity constraints in that office where there are 14,000 files and only six attorneys," he said.
He said he ran away from the attorneys because he felt threatened and as a result, he would not be returning to the office.
Van Schalkwyk said the accusation that he had lied under oatt in a matter was nonsense. "Everyone is involved in that corruption and fraud, even the judiciary,” he said.
Makangela said: “It makes no sense to leave perfectly capable practitioners in Mthatha and import the services of white men from outside our province. There are women here who have been practising for years and one can count on one hand the number of government cases they have received and that is not right.”
The lawyers handed over their memorandum to department of justice DG Vusi Madonsela, who received it on behalf of justice minister advocate Michael Masutha.
After a lengthy meeting in the boardroom, the leadership emerged, telling the attorneys that, among other matters discussed, the following decisions had been taken:..