Tweets shake up Joburg Bar members

2013-04-28 14:00

A Johannesburg advocate has ­narrowly escaped landing in hot water over comments he made on Twitter.

Vuyani Ngalwana, who is representing the police at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, sparked a quiet controversy at the Johannesburg Bar after he tweeted comments that were critical of other advocates at the commission, including struggle icon George Bizos, who is representing the Legal Resources Centre and the Bench Marks Foundation at the commission.

In October last year, Ngalwana tweeted: “I think Bizos SC has lost it. He’s asking rhetorical questions that have already been answered in SAPS (SA Police Service) ­statement.”

Two weeks earlier, he tweeted: “The Marikana Commission seems to be used by counsel as a popularity parade, each counsel speaking for the sake of speaking.”

Four advocates, who asked to ­remain anonymous, confirmed that Ngalwana’s comments had sparked outrage among some members of the Johannesburg Bar, which regulates the profession in the city.

A complaint against Ngalwana was lodged with the professional committee of the Johannesburg Bar.

The complaint led to committee chairperson Roshan Bedhesi warning members of the Bar about the “wide circulation and impact” of tweets and Facebook messages.

Bedhesi was quoted in The Times as saying members of the Bar should desist from making ­“inappropriate statements” on ­social networking platforms ­because this was a breach of ­professional rules.

The rules do not allow members to write articles in nonlegal publications about pending cases.

City Press understands that a ­report recommended disciplinary steps be taken against Ngalwana, but the committee elected not to proceed with the complaint because Ngalwana was not given an opportunity to respond to the allegations against him.

Contacted for comment, Bedhesi would only say that the “professional committee has decided not to proceed with that complaint”.

Ngalwana said he knew of “no complaint pending against me at the Bar”.

The offending tweets have been deleted from Ngalwana’s Twitter feed.

Bizos said Ngalwana apologised to him shortly after making the statement on Twitter.

“I didn’t take it seriously and I thanked him for his apology.

“I think that he has learnt his ­lesson and that we must move ­forward,” said Bizos.

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