Durban - The Law Society of South Africa instructed members of the KwaZulu-Natal Law Society’s council on Thursday to immediately get back to work “to protect the public” and regulate its members.

This follows a recent walk-out by members representing the National Democratic Lawyers’ Association (Nadel) and the Black Lawyers’ Association (BLA) because of a dispute over allocation of funds.

This rendered the statutory body - which regulates the attorneys’ profession in the province, dealing with admissions and discipline - “dysfunctional”, its director, Gavin John, reported to all members via e-mail this week.

KZN Law Society president Poobie Govindasamy said members appointed by Nadel and the BLA had “withdrawn their participation” in all matters because they did not support a proposal from the other elected members to fund a new lawyers’ association, the South African Attorneys’ Association (SAAA).

But the SAAA said it had not applied for funding. Its president, Praveen Sham, said there was distrust between the members, and that BLA and Nadel members were refusing to approve any funding for the law society because they suspected that money would be given to SAAA. Sham said it was suggested that the dispute be resolved by the entire membership at a meeting, but BLA and Nadel members insisted that it went to the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA), a voluntary non-statutory organisation that is the mouthpiece of the attorneys’ profession.

Yesterday, LSSA co-chairmen Max Boqwana and Ettienne Barnard said the management committee had met to consider the dispute. It had been resolved that there needed to be recognition that those counsellors who were not part of Nadel and BLA needed to meet from time to time, and the society should avail funding for this. However, that the funding should not be used “in pursuance of the interests of the SAAA, or any sectarian political interests”.

Sham could not be contacted for comment on Thursday.

Govindasamy, who is also a Nadel member, said he was waiting for confirmation on Thursday afternoon from all 20 council members that the issue was resolved.

“The LSSA has dealt with it properly and I expect Nadel and BLA to accept it… To fund another organisation which takes us back 20 years is not in the interests of the profession.

“I am hoping our next council meeting, scheduled for July 20, will proceed,” said Govindasamy.

The Mercury