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Advocate Malesela Teffo’s legal career hangs in balance

Advocate Malesela Teffo in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria. Picture: Zelda Venter

Advocate Malesela Teffo in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria. Picture: Zelda Venter

Published Aug 5, 2022


Pretoria - Contoversial advocate Malesela Teffo’s legal career may be over if the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, rules in favour of an application by the Legal Practice Council to have him either struck from the roll or suspended pending further legal action.

The watchdog body yesterday told the court it had received 22 complaints against him, and it was in the interest of the public not to allow him to practise law any further.

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Its counsel told two judges presiding over the matter that the complaints came from police and individuals. These included that he was being investigated for alleged corruption, failed to co-operate with the investigation of the council into complaints received against him, did not adhere to previous court orders against him and received payments directly from clients, and not through the instructing attorney, as per the rules.

Advocate Mfesana Ka-Sibotho told the court that it was necessary to remove Teffo’s name from the roll in order to safeguard the public against him.

The Legal Practice Council said in court papers that it was launching this application and needed an order which would protect the public “from a rogue practitioner who is no longer fit and proper to remain within the ranks of the profession”.

The application followed previous actions by Teffo and did not involve his latest conduct and antics in the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial, where he was defending four of the accused, Muzikawukhulelwa Sibiya, Bongani Ntanzi, Mthobisi Mncube and Mthokoziseni Maphisa.

Following a grand exit from the trial when he withdrew as counsel, Teffo claimed he was again going to enter the trial if a long list of bizarre demands were met.

He also in a letter to the court and prosecutor George Baloyi made scandalous allegations that the presiding judge in the criminal trial, Judge Tshifhiwa Maumela, was “involved in witchcraft”.

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While this did not come into play during the application to have him removed as advocate, Teffo did mention it as he accused Baloyi of sending the letter to the council, thus, according to him, giving it more ammunition against him.

While counsel for the entity was armed with files and computers containing all the affidavits in electronic form as required by this division of the court, Teffo, who represented himself, stood facing the judges without a shred of paper before him.

In an incoherent argument, he told the court that this application arose because the council had a vendetta against him. He time and again jumped up at court while counsel for the watchdog was talking, and he was on occasions told by the judges to sit down.

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While it is not quite clear what his argument entailed, Teffo indicated that this application was sprung on him as he did not know about it. He said the case number involved a case relating to a bank and thus it did not involve him. Thus, Teffo said, he did not prepare.

He then asked to have legal representation, as his livelihood was at stake. He asked that the matter simply be struck from the roll and that the council had to foot the legal bill on a punitive scale.

Later, Teffo asked for the matter to be postponed indefinitely. His incoherent arguments prompted the judges to ask “What is it you actually want?” Teffo then responded he wanted a postponement.

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He said the people who lodged complaints against him were faceless and he needed to defend himself. “I have to put bread on the table. Many will suffer if you grant this order,” Teffo told the court.

He said he was an upstanding advocate who needed to clear his name. He said he had never stolen any money and the allegations against him were frivolous.

Counsel for the watchdog made it clear that Teffo knew about this application for more than a year, as papers were served on him and he even responded, giving a blank denial of all.

The judges also pointed out that the court papers – none of which Teffo had with him yesterday – had several annexures containing correspondence between Teffo and the council regarding this matter.

In refusing his application for postponement, the judges made it clear that they would not allow Teffo to prolong this matter for his own gain. They said it was clear he knew about this case for more than a year and, as a legal practitioner, he should know the rules of the court.

But Teffo did not take this ruling lying down. While the judges told the council to commence with its arguments, Teffo yet again jumped up and was told by the judges to take his seat.

But an adamant Teffo said he did not accept this ruling. “I will challenge this ruling because I have a right to be heard… If the council application succeeds, it will be devastating for my career… I am an advocate of high standing. I have a right to respond to these damaging allegations against me,” he said.

But the court would have none of it and told Teffo that he could respond after the council had argued its case.

Arguments continued until late yesterday, and the matter is set to continue today.

Coincidentally, Teffo’s younger sister was admitted as an attorney in the same court yesterday.

Pretoria News