SABC used a disbarred lawyer

2013-03-10 10:02

A law firm that conducted investigations at the SABC used a disbarred lawyer to do so.

And SABC deputy chairperson Thami ka Plaatjie stands accused of acting like an executive when he instructed then acting chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng to appoint the firm to conduct investigations at the public broadcaster.

City Press is in possession of a letter Ka Plaatjie sent to Motsoeneng, dated July 20 2012, in which he orders Motsoeneng to hire SML Matsaung Attorneys, a small Pretoria-based practice.

Ka Plaatjie wanted the firm to investigate suspended SABC chief financial officer Gugu Duda and suspended acting procurement head, Nompilo Dlamini.

The SABC has defended Ka Plaatjie, saying he acted within his rights.

“In terms of the delegation of authority, the approval of the legal contracts is done through the governance subcommittee which is chaired by (Ka Plaatjie),” said SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago.

Kganyago didn’t respond to specific questions about why Ka Plaatjie recommended only one law firm.

It has further emerged that SML Matsaung used a disbarred lawyer, Devanathan Colin Pather, to conduct some of the investigations at the public broadcaster.

Five employees of SML Matsaung, including director Sebetja Matsaung, consulted for the SABC from August until December last year.

Pather charged R2 200 an hour.

City Press is in possession of a ruling – dated March 29 2011 – by the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, that struck Pather off the roll of attorneys.

Pather was found by the court to have “misappropriated trust funds” and “rendered himself unworthy to remain on the roll of attorneys”.

Pather explained that he closed his practice in 2011 to focus on consultancy work.

“While my practice was closed, I was struck off the roll of practising attorneys in 2011. The matter is on appeal,” said Pather. “I reiterate that it was a strike off, not criminal nor an adverse judgment.”

But the High Court ruling did make adverse findings against Pather and his character of “obstructionism” towards justice and for being less than candid with the truth.

Pather previously conducted an investigation into state-owned arms manufacturer Denel. The parastatal later stated in a report that Pather had invoiced it for services not rendered. Denel refused to pay him.

Although he consulted for his law firm, lawyer Matsaung denied knowing Pather.

“I’ve never worked with him.”

But when Pather called City Press, he confirmed he received our contact details from Matsaung himself.

Pather explained he was working for Kodu Consulting, which was subcontracted to SML Matsaung.

SML Matsaung was based at the SABC offices at the time of conducting its investigations.

Pather said he does not know whether the SABC vetted him before employing him as a consultant.

The SABC referred all City Press’ questions on Pather to Matsaung, who declined to answer any questions.

Ka Plaatjie denies knowing SML Matsaung before he recommended the firm to Motsoeneng.

Also, the firm is not listed on the public broadcaster’s list of approved legal-services providers.

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