Shaming the legal fraternity

2013-08-04 14:00

Charles and Myna Machailwe started their battle for justice 13 years ago.

The couple’s son, Oteng, was left physically and mentally disabled after his birth in May 2000, a tragic situation the Machailwes blamed on the North West health department, the Rustenburg provincial hospital and the premier of North West.

They launched a court bid in 2005 after years of preparation and the matter was settled out of court in 2008.

They were awarded a little more than R5?million – and there the story should have reached a happy ending.

Instead, the Machailwes are now battling the very lawyers they appointed to win the money that will help them support Oteng for the rest of his life.

Between them, the legal team that argued the Machailwe’s case has paid itself more than R3.3?million of the total settlement – a shocking breach of the Contingency Fees Act, which governs payment in matters like these.

Their experience is not unique.

Unscrupulous lawyers target desperate people who have suffered terrible tragedy and injustice, and exploit this for their own gain.

These lawyers discredit their entire profession, adding to the public’s perception that the doors of South Africa’s courts are not open to all.

It is crucial that the department of justice and all right-thinking lawyers stand up against this gross abuse of power – for 13-year-old Oteng Machailwe and all the other nameless, faceless South Africans who deserve a fair chance at justice.

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