George Bizos steps in to offer support to disbarred lawyer Seth Nthai

George Bizos. (Themba Hadebe, AP)
George Bizos. (Themba Hadebe, AP)

An application by lawyer Seth Nthai to be readmitted as an advocate has pitted the Polokwane Bar against its counterparts in Pretoria and Johannesburg.

The Polokwane Bar on Tuesday told News24 that it had resolved to file papers in the Limpopo High Court in support of Nthai. He also has support from well-known senior counsel George Bizos.

Nthai was a member of both the Pretoria and Johannesburg bars before he was struck off the roll in 2013. In October this year, he lodged an application to be readmitted with the Polokwane Bar.

The application was not opposed until it was to be heard in the Limpopo High Court on Friday, November 30. Both the bars of Pretoria and Johannesburg indicated their intention to oppose the application on November 29.

They have been given until the end of February 2019 to file opposing papers.

Explaining the decision to intervene in court, Polokwane Bar chairperson advocate William Mokhari said: "Our role is to assist the courts in terms of admission and readmission of advocates. Nthai lodged the application for readmission in Polokwane and we resolved to support the application.

"He made full disclosure and indicated that he will play a role in Polokwane. The Society of Advocates in Polokwane then wrote a letter of support and also brought it to the attention of the Pretoria bar and the court. We do that with all the applications."

Mokhari said the Pretoria and Johannesburg bars, however, remain adamant that they will oppose the application.

READ: Pretoria, Johannesburg bars oppose Seth Nthai's bid to be admitted into Polokwane bar

"We engaged them but they have indicated they will go ahead. These are separate bars from Polokwane and they can make their own decisions. We have therefore deemed it necessary to intervene," Mokhari said.

'Nthai still has a role to play'

"We've instructed counsels and attorneys to deal with the matter. Our advocates will make submission to the court as to why we are satisfied with his (Nthai's) application," he said.

Bizos has also deposed an affidavit to the court in support of Nthai's readmission.

The affidavit reads in part: "When the allegations of his transgression first surfaced, they were met with disbelief and shock. Nthai was reprimanded by his peers.

"When he requested me to support his application, I agreed to do so as I believe Nthai still has a role to play in the legal profession. His removal from the roll of practicing advocates left a void which was difficult to fill."

Nthai, who was the first safety and security MEC in Limpopo after the dawn of democracy, was struck off the roll following allegations that he tried to negotiate a payment of R5m for himself from an international company.

At the time, he was representing the South African government in a case in The Hague over mining rights. It was alleged he met with the CEO of Finstone, Mario Marcenaro, who apparently recorded the conversation.

Nthai was subjected to a disciplinary hearing by the Pretoria Bar. He was found guilty of misconduct and subsequently struck off the roll.

The matter is expected to be heard in the Limpopo High Court on April 15 and 16.

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