Pretoria - The taxpayer was spared paying R34 million in damages to a man who had instituted a claim against the Minister of Police, while the ministry was unaware of the settlement.
At the centre of the application before the Gauteng High Court, Joburg, was the conduct of the now former head of the office of the State Attorney in that city, Kgosi Gustav Lekabe, and advocate Hassan Kajee, who until recently was a member of the Johannesburg Bar.
Both men had meanwhile resigned from their jobs as a result of their highly questionable conduct.
It appeared that both were in cahoots in settling the case of Ayanda Kunene, who claimed damages from the police after he was shot during a hijacking incident.
He was first charged in connection with the hijacking, but his name was later cleared by a magistrate.
Kunene is now a paraplegic after he was shot in the back by members of the police.
While Judge Raylene Keightley could not find any evidence that Kunene was behind the questionable settlement in his case, she did find that there was a corrupt relationship between the minister’s legal representatives.
It appeared that Lekabe, the instructing attorney, and Kajee, who was an advocate who appeared for the minister, conspired to obtain the settlement behind the back of the minister’s office.
It also appeared that Kajee invoiced the minister’s office for work done at a rate of R66522 a day for 517 consecutive days in this case despite the fact that the matter had been “settled”.
Judge Keightley said this was the first time in her career on the Bench she had witnessed anything like this.
The judge also commented that Kunene’s case was not the only one in terms of how Kajee and Lekabe dealt with it. She said the overwhelming probability was that the pair were involved in a collusive relationship in terms of which other matters were also milked at the expense of the State.
The pair at first went behind the back of the minister and accepted full liability for the damages.
They then again went behind the back of the minister and on the day the trial was supposed to start offered Kunene a settlement of more than R34m.
The court was told that in cases exceeding R30m the commissioner of police first had to give the green light.
Lekabe tried to blame his junior in the office for the settlements and said he had nothing to do with it, but the judge rejected this.
Kunene, meanwhile, tried to get his money from the public purse. When it was not forthcoming, he applied for an order to have the State’s assets sold on execution so that he could recover his money.
The office of the minister realised what was happening and obtained an order to set aside the sale of execution.
His office also applied for an order to overturn the “settlements” in relation to admitting liability and agreeing to pay Kunene R34m in damages.
In dealing with the rescission application, Pretoria lawyer Thekiso Moadi, assisted by Jean-Ray Pearson of the firm Gildenhuys Malatji cited Kajee and Lekabe in their personal capacities as respondents.
This was to obtain a punitive cost order from them personally.
Judge Keightley agreed to this, thus not leaving the taxpayer out of pocket.
She also ordered that a copy of her judgment be forwarded to the Gauteng Legal Practice Council and the Johannesburg Bar to note the conduct of Kajee and Lekabe.
It is not clear how much the pair gained from this and other similar cases in which they were allegedly involved in as well, but the judge did remark that there was a “corruptive” relationship between them.
She said this was a matter of public interest, as the public purse was at stake.
While overturning the “settlements” she did order that Kunene’s case must now be dealt with afresh and without delay.