A lawyer has been struck from the roll of advocates by the High Court in Pretoria, after he allegedly received over R200,000 from numerous elderly clients but failed to assist them after they paid him.
The Legal Practice Council (LPC) brought an application against Senzo Mkhize after they were approached by six people who complained that they paid him and were never assisted.
The first complaint was from a woman identified as Nkala. She went to Mkhize in March 2020 and paid him R18,000 and he failed to assist her.
Nkala said despite the money she paid to Mkhize, she still lost her home which her grandmother had left her.
Another complaint was from 60-year-old woman called Tshabalala. She paid Mkhize R10,000 and he failed to represent her in court.
Tshabalala told the LPC that Mkhize promised her that her matter had been handled.
“He said everything is fine, the matter is done and right, but he lied to us,” she said.
Tshabalala further stated that when she tried to call Mkhize, he said he will meet her at his chambers, however, when she arrived at the chambers, it was locked and Mkhize's phone was off.
A 71-year-old woman identified as Maloba, told the LPC that she approached Mkhize to assist her with a property transaction. She was charged R10,000.
Maloba said he did not complete his mandate and every time she wanted to meet with him, he kept on postponing their appointment.
Madela, 83, said she instructed Mkhize to assist her with the registration of a title deed into her family name. She was charged R5,000.
Unfortunately, she was also not assisted.
Taunyane complained to the LPC that he instructed Mkhize to file a case against the trustees of Mogale Alloy Trust. He said Mkhize failed to execute his mandate.
He further alleges that he paid Mkhize around R178,000 and despite his attempts to terminate Mkhize’s mandate, Mkhize refused to hand over the files.
The last complaint was from Suleiman.
Suleiman complained to the LPC that he paid Mkhize R2,000 to assist him with a condonation application.
He said Mkhize failed to execute his mandate and, on three occasions Mkhize promised to refund him, but he never did.
Mkhize did not file a notice of intention to oppose or an answering affidavit in response to all the allegations against him.
However, he tried to block his removal by launching eight different applications against the LPC.
He also wrote two letters warning the LPC that if they don’t withdraw their application, he will institute R30 million in damages.
In court papers, the LPC’s central allegation was that Mkhize accepted instructions and deposits from clients directly without an attorney. This is in contravention the Legal Practice Act 28.
In his defence, Mkhize said the invoices were done by his administrators without his knowledge. He said that his employees acted of their own volition.
However, Acting Judge De Vos said Mkhize’s argument doesn’t hold water as he is responsible for the conduct of his employees.
“Mr Mkhize’s failure to exercise control and apply the necessary oversight over his employees is not a defence, but in fact itself an act which itself falls short of the standards and ethics of his profession,” said the judge.
The acting judge said Mkhize's conduct during proceedings and hearings, indicates that he lacks the moral fibre required of his profession and he lacks remorse.
“Mkhize has sought to evade, frustrate and postpone the hearing and finalisation of this matter at every opportunity,” read the judgment.
Furthermore, the court said that Mkhize’s transgressions were serious and warrant a serious sanction.
“In addition, the public is to be protected from Mkhize. The court has no reason to believe that rehabilitation or a suspended sanction would be useful,” said the judge.
The judge said by removing Mkhize from the roll of advocates, the court would be depriving him his ability to earn a living.
However, it was noted that Mkhize’s actions were not a result from sudden temptation, and his fall from grace was not in consequence of an isolated act.
It was said that his actions were deliberate and persistent.
“Based on the evidence before the court ... the court believes the appropriate sanction would be to strike Mkhize from the roll of practitioners,” said the judge.