Lawyer fasts for fees

2016-02-03 11:01
Christo Loots

Christo Loots (File)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Pietermaritzburg - A former Pietermaritzburg attorney, Christo Loots, has embarked on a hunger strike to highlight what he alleges are “unjust, unreasonable and bullying” tactics by Legal Aid SA (Lasa).

Loots, who is wheelchair-bound and has other health problems including diabetes, embarked on a hunger strike from January 26 this year.

He told The Witness he will continue to drink only water, tea and coffee until Lasa complies with a judgment for payment of fees due to him, which was granted in his favour in 2009 following a lengthy court battle.

Lasa said in a statement issued on Tuesday that it became aware on January 29 that Loots had started a hunger strike. However, it could not understand the reason as Lasa alleges the “primary cause for the delay in giving effect to the court order has been the lack of co-operation” by Loots himself.

Loots, who is currently living in Pretoria, said in a statement to The Witness that he is currently destitute due to the non-payment. He said he has not been paid for services he provided to Legal Aid SA during 1996 and 1999, to protect labour tenants against eviction from farms.

Loots says he was owed R422 092 for his services involving 157 different matters. He believes he is entitled to VAT and interest on the fees due.

In terms of the judgment granted in his favour by Judge Themba Sishi on February 4, 2009, Lasa was ordered to process Loots’s accounts and a referee was to be appointed to handle the matter. Loots says that immediately after the judgment was handed down, and “in order to avoid the enormous costs of taxation by a referee”, Lasa approached him with an undertaking to check each of his accounts for any mistakes. They undertook to record any allegedly disallowed items on a duplicate of the account and return this, with the admitted debt, to him.

Only disputed items would then have been referred to a referee.

However, he alleges Lasa took no action to fulfil its undertaking.

Instead, he said, Lasa offered “unsubstantiated lump sum payments of R400 000”, which included VAT and no interest.

Loots now wants to refer the entire dispute to a referee, but said the original referee is no longer willing to act for the same fee as in 2009, and Lasa does not want to pay a higher fee.

He alleged Lasa had said it would oppose any court application to vary the amount.

Loots maintains Lasa had ignored all e-mails and phone messages from September 2 last year, when a meeting was held to try and end the deadlock.

Replying to an e-mail query from The Witness late on Tuesday, Lasa confirmed that the (trial) court had ordered both parties to appoint a suitable referee, who would decide on liability and what fees were due to Loots.

However, Lasa said the process of appointing a suitable referee had been delayed due to Loots’ “lack of co-operation”, until Lasa eventually decided to appoint an independent legal cost consultant to assist them. “A detailed taxed statement was compiled by the legal cost consultant, which formed the basis of our settlement that was proposed to the plaintiff (Loots).”

Lasa said it offered the settlement proposed by its consultant to Loots “in good faith” in April 2013, but he rejected the offer.

Loots then made a “counter offer”, which Lasa did not accept.

Lasa said it remains committed to resolving the dispute.

Loots said he will continue his hunger strike until Lasa gives him a written undertaking to honour its obligations and process each of the 157 accounts, as well as pay any fees required by the referee.

A friend and fellow attorney, Chris Fismer, told The Witness he paid a visit to Loots on Tuesday and found him to be “in a bad condition”.

“He is very depressed. He feels that there is nothing more that he can do (to resolve the matter with Lasa).”

Fismer said Loots was not taking in any food, and he was extremely concerned about his health.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  hunger strike  |  lawyer

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24


And the Paws24 and Hill's winners are ...

Find out who the winners of our Paws24 pet pics and Q&a competitions are...



Keep your family and pets safe from rabies
5 scientific benefits of owning a cat
Why we love cats
8 great natural remedies for your pet
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.