Durban attorney in sale dispute says her signature was forged

2017-10-24 11:41
High Court. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

High Court. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Durban - A Durban attorney - accused of attempting to destroy a law firm she allegedly sold to a former employee - says her signature was forged and there was no "sale".

Bulelwa Ndamase, a high-profile lawyer who has acted as a judge in the High Court, hit back at her accuser Pavitra Govender this week in an affidavit filed in the dispute being played out in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Durban.

Ndamase says she has engaged the services of handwriting analysts who confirm, in an interim report, that the signature on documents put up by Govender to support her claims, are not hers.

Govender launched an urgent application in September claiming she bought Ndamase Inc, a law firm practising from premises in Umhlanga, from Ndamase in June last year as a going concern.

She alleged in her affidavit that 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.

Govender accused Ndamase of breaking the restraint of trade agreement, effectively locking her out of the offices, reporting her to the law society and laying baseless criminal charges against her, which resulted in police seizing her computers and shutting down her business.

READ: Acting judge accused of destroying law firm

She says Ndamase did not mention the sale agreement in any of these complaints. But Ndamase says this is because there was no sale agreement.

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

'I have never seen the document before'

"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."

Govender, in her affidavit, said she had worked at Ndamase Inc - a busy law firm mainly involved in collections for clients - as an articled clerk and then a professional assistant.

She alleged that Ndamase had wanted to sell the business because she had done several stints as an acting judge and wanted to pursue other business interests.

She claimed this is how the "sale agreement" came about.

But Ndamase says the "winding up" of the business was to be phased and it involved the opening of a new firm of attorneys by Govender.

She said she wanted to empower Govender and encouraged her to register her own practice.

"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."

She said any sale of her practice would have involved informing the KwaZulu-Natal Law Society and complying with its stringent closure requirements "which never happened".

'Unprofessional conduct'

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 on the office and Govender broke in.

When the matter first came to court, an order was taken by consent that the housebreaking docket - which formed the basis for the search and seizure warrant against Govender - would be sent to a senior public prosecutor for a decision.

Lt Col Ashley Pillay, a SAPS legal officer, said in an affidavit that the order had been complied with and a decision was awaited.

He said statements from three witnesses indicated that Govender had allegedly "illegally extricated" electronic files from Ndamase and copied these to her computers, which gave rise to a suspicion that theft may have been committed.

The matter has been adjourned until next week for Govender to respond. 

*NOTE: The parties in this case have come to a settlement. Read here. 

Read more on:    durban  |  courts

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