Durban attorneys involved in dispute over law firm sale reach settlement

High Court. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)
High Court. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)

Durban - Two Durban attorneys who were embroiled in a legal tussle over the alleged sale of a law firm from one to the other, have settled their differences amicably.

In an order taken by consent in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Durban recently, Pavitra Govender and Bulelwa Ndamase Paledi recorded that they had settled their civil litigation and that each would pay their own legal costs.

News24 first reported on the matter in October 2017 when Govender launched an urgent High Court application accusing Ndamase - who has also acted as a judge in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng - of attempting to destroy the Umhlanga-based law firm, Ndamase Inc, that she said she had bought from Ndamase as a going concern in June 2016.

READ: Acting judge accused of destroying law firm

In her affidavit, Govender said the agreement made provision for her to take over some clients, office equipment and employees. It also provided for a restraint of trade against Ndamase.

She alleged that Ndamase had broken the restraint of trade agreement and had effectively locked her out of her offices, reported her to the law society and laid baseless criminal charges against her, which led to police seizing her computers.

Allegations

At that time, in terms of an interim order granted by consent before Judge Jacqui Henriques, the investigating officer was ordered to present the relevant docket to the provincial director of public prosecutions for a decision on the merits of the allegations contained in it.

It was also recorded that Ndamase had undertaken not to lay "any false charges or false complaints" with the police or the law society, pending the finalisation of the application.

Ndamase, in her opposing affidavit reported on by News24 in October 2017, claimed her signature was forged and there was no sale of the law practice.

READ: Durban attorney in sale dispute says her signature was forged

She said she had engaged the services of handwriting analysts who confirmed, in an interim report, that the signature on documents put up by Govender to support her claims, were not hers.

"It is a fictitious, fraudulent document," she said.

"I deny concluding both the purported sale agreement and the restraint of trade. I have never seen the document before. I deny signing it or appending my initials thereto. I have engaged the services of two forensic document examiners to conduct a forensic examination of the document."

Ndamase said Govender had worked for her. The winding up of the business was to be phased, and it involved the opening of a new firm of attorneys by Govender, who she wanted to empower.

"We reached a tentative agreement that I would cease the operations of the practice… but I never concluded the sale agreement on the terms she claims."

No personal interest

Ndamase said Govender's version was a complete fabrication "to distract the law society's investigation into her unprofessional conduct" and "thwart the police investigation" relating to the housebreaking case she had opened against her, after she changed the locks to the office and Govender broke in.

In the most recent order, signed by Judge Mahendra Chetty,  it is recorded that Ndamase, having settled the civil litigation, had no further personal interest in the investigation of any complaint or charges which have been laid with the police/prosecuting authorities and the law society, "but shall co-operate with investigations if so required".

The order also records that the parties will not pursue any further claims against each other.

Govender also "unreservedly apologises for any insensitivity, ingratitude or offence" which may have been shown or given to Ndamase and undertook to assist in having any articles regarding the legal dispute, which may be published on the internet, removed.

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