Nthai failed to demonstrate he was depressed at the time of his unethical conduct - Legal Practice Council

2019-07-05 20:06
Seth Nthai in the Limpopo High Court in Polokwane. (Jeanette Chabalala, News24)

Seth Nthai in the Limpopo High Court in Polokwane. (Jeanette Chabalala, News24)

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The Legal Practice Council (LPC) wants lawyer Seth Nthai to subject himself to an independent medical examination, saying that he has not demonstrated that he was depressed when he tried to solicit a R5m payment from an Italian businessman. 

The Limpopo High Court ruled in favour of Nthai's readmission in May - almost a decade after he was struck from the roll. 

However, the LPC and the Johannesburg Society of Advocates are appealing the ruling.

Arguing before Limpopo Judge President Ephraim Makgoba and Judge Peter Mabuse, advocate Terry Motau for the LPC said: "Nthai failed to discharge the onus on him and he has not demonstrated that he was depressed at the time of the commission of his unethical and criminal conduct.

"Nthai told you as the court that depression is the cause for his conduct... 

"The medical reports in which he places reliance are qualified and most importantly do not present a causal link between the depression and his conduct."

Motau said the LPC maintained that Nthai's readmission application should have been brought before the High Court's Gauteng division in Pretoria and that the court did not have the power to exercise jurisdiction.

"The assumptions that there is a conspiracy or there is a concerted effort to ensure that difficulties are placed in front of Mr Nthai to ensure he doesn't enter the profession ... that is unfortunate.

"The LPC does not take a position that Mr Nthai can never be readmitted for ever in a day. The test for readmission has been set and it was adequately argued before the court. The facts must be judged against that test.

"The LPC's main concern is that the application and the explanation does not tick all the boxes," Motau argued. 

Nthai was struck off the Johannesburg and Pretoria bars after admitting to committing serious transgressions when he tried to solicit a R5m payment from an Italian businessman who was embroiled in a quarrel with the South African government over mining rights. 

Secret recordings revealed the lawyer sharing his client's confidential information with the chief executive of one of the Italian companies linked to the case.

Nthai was heard promising a Mr Marcenaro - as he is referred to in court papers - that he would convince the government to settle the matter outside of an arbitration process in return for the R5m payment.

On Friday afternoon, Nthai's legal representative, advocate Gift Shakoane SC, said the LPC and JSA wanted to keep his client "out and frustrated". 

He added the JSA should not be participating in the matter, saying that it does not have standing to participate in the application for readmission.

"The JSA has no existence or right," he said. 

Shakoane said the LPC had delegated the Nthai matter to the Polokwane Bar Council and it was not supposed to be arguing the case. 

He added that what the LPC and JSA had not brought to the court was that Nthai benefited from the R5m bribe. 

Judgement has been reserved. 

Judge Makgoba said he would deliver judgment within 10 days.

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Read more on:    seth nthai  |  courts  |  crime

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