Before 1994 lawyers were male and white. Today, white male lawyers are still being handpicked while black lawyers are overlooked, says Black Lawyers Association resident Lutendo Sigogo.
The association, which celebrated its 40-year anniversary last year, is adamant that it is time for transformation.
“The main issue that caused our forbearers [to establish the association] was because they were not allowed to practise in big cities,” said Sigogo.
“In our country women are the majority, in university mostly women graduate in all professions including the legal profession, but in the profession there are mostly men. There’s a bottleneck somewhere,” he said.
According to the BLA, this needs to be rectified by both the private sector and government.
“If all of us are equally exposed to the economy it will benefit the giver and the receiver,” Sigogo said, adding that this was what economic justice meant.
The BLA is represented at the National Forum on the Legal Profession, which aims to provide a legislative framework for the transformation and restructuring of the legal profession.
Within this forum Sigogo hopes to advance impartial treatment of black lawyers, particularly women lawyers.
He has a number of suggestions of how women can be better treated in the legal profession, which includes women being relieved from their Bar subscription during their year of pregnancy.
“Men must not be preferred over women because of [pregnancy and maternity leave],” he said.
He said adding a financial burden to pregnant women was a form of prejudice.
“That’s indirect discrimination camouflaged as equality.”
He said the forum was working on establishing a council in each province to address such issues. The council is scheduled to come into effect on November 1.
He said in the legal field “structures make it easier for men to work” and women were not considered.
“If the black lawyers are not empowered like their white counterparts, that will translate to the society,” said Sigogo.
He said black lawyers deserved the same “respect and confidence”.