'Time for war': Advocates' body distances itself from Vuyani Ngalwana's tweet

2018-07-06 17:48
Vuyani Ngalwana. (Supplied)

Vuyani Ngalwana. (Supplied)

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The General Council of the Bar of South Africa (GCB) distanced itself from comments made on Twitter this week by its chair Vuyani Ngalwana, SC, that it was "time for war" because reconciliation had failed.

While Ngalwana has since defended his tweets and said he was not inciting anyone, the Johannesburg Society of Advocates' (JSA) Professional and Fees Committee said it would investigate whether the tweet fell within its mandate.

The committee acted upon complaints and reports received but also assumed a monitoring role and investigated cases where a member may have acted unprofessionally.

READ: Advocate accuses 'mainly white' Free State legal Bar of racism

Ngalwana, who is a member of the JSA, heads up the GCB, which represents advocates affiliated to different bars nationally.

Responding in his capacity as GCB deputy chair Craig Watt-Pringle, SC, said that he had not yet been able to get a response from Ngalwana or the rest of the executive committee and did not know what the context of his tweets were. However, the body distanced itself from his views.

"Prior to becoming Chairman of the GCB, Ngalwana SC was a frequent political commentator on Twitter in his personal capacity," said Watt-Pringle.

"The views referred to in the tweet ... was made in his personal capacity, (and) was not cleared with the GCB and does not reflect the views of the GCB."

'Not inciting violence'

Approached for comment, Ngalwana, who is out of the country, told News24 on Friday that he was not inciting anyone to commit violence with his use of the word "war".

"I’m expressing the view that reconciliation at the expense of true economic transformation has failed – hopelessly," he said.

He said his comments could be contextualised by referring to the numerous articles he had written over the years about a lack of transformation at the Bar.

In a contribution to Advocate, the official journal of the GCB, in February this year, he plotted a timeline of transformation that the Bar had taken.

"The idea is to leave it to members to make up their own minds, based on cold facts, about how we have fared over these past 25 years," he stated in the article.

'Stalling tactics'

"My view is that on transformation, the Bar has proven itself adept at holding meetings and symposia, taking resolutions, establishing committees and making platitudinous statements such as acknowledging and recognising the slow progress in transformation, but doing nothing of substance to move apace on it. I have come to recognise these for what they are: stalling tactics."

His articles addresses the different views that people had on making an amendment to the GCB constitution to play a greater role in enforcing transformation at constituent Bar level.

A Twitter debate kicked off when Ngalwana stated on his Twitter account on Wednesday: "I think (nay, I KNOW) that black professionals in ALL professions must now kick arse. Enough of this politeness bullshit. We're being abused and patronized. Let's hit back. Strongly. I’ll start. Watch the next couple of weeks. Politeness can sod off now. Gloves are off."

The spirit of Nelson Mandela was invoked less than an hour later when another Twitter user questioned Ngalwana's approach.

User @bevthrills said: "#NelsonMandela was always polite ... he emphasized politeness as a way of countering those who patronized him, take a leaf out of his book and rethink your approach."

Ngalwana replied to her: "That's why we're in this mess. Politeness. You're talking to the wrong black man. Reconciliation is not my thing. That failed. Now it's time for war."

EFF leader Julius Malema retweeted this.

JSA chair Ian Green told News24 that all of its members were regulated by the Uniform Rules of Ethics of the GCB, supplemented by the Local Rules of the JSA.

Looking into tweet

Green said the committee was considering whether the tweet fell within its jurisdiction, and if so "whether it is a matter that requires further attention".

Meanwhile, many users applauded Ngalwana for being outspoken and taking a stand, while others disagreed with him.

User @MatthewsMahlubi, said "Kubo! SC. Black people should understand, It's now or never. We miss this opportunity, we're done. Let's fix this fake kumbaya once and for all."

Conversely, @odders72 stated: "You realise, you'd have to get off your twitter arse to go to war or are you referring to a war of twitter words? Out of interest, what position would you like in this warring army of yours?"

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