Lawyer urges black colleagues to act when excluded

A junior advocate has urged black businesses and lawyers not to shy away from suing for anti-competitive practices when they are excluded because of their race.

Cape Town-based advocate Simba Chitando was involved in a legal battle with three colleagues at the Cape Bar and four legal firms, Business Day reported today.

He claimed he was excluded from briefings on shipping matters because he was black and Zimbabwean, and that complaints to the Cape Bar council about “racist and xenophobic briefing patterns” would often go unpunished.

“The Cape Bar is notorious, among black African advocates, for excluding our people,” he was quoted as telling the newspaper.

According to Business Day, Cape Bar Council chairman John Newdigate said there were several programmes “on the go” to empower young black and female advocates.

Chitando reportedly accused law firms Webber Wentzel, Norton Rose, Bowman Gilfillan and Shepstone & Wylie of racism and xenophobia in one of his cases before the Competition Tribunal,

He had made similar allegations against his seniors at the Cape Bar – Michael Fitzgerald, Russel MacWilliam and Michael Wragge – in another case.

Business Day reported the three had accused Chitando of attempted extortion, and submitted an e-mail from him to their attorney, in which he allegedly offered to withdraw the case if they each paid him R300 000.

Chitando told the newspaper the e-mail was a genuine offer to settle, made “without prejudice”.

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