Itumeleng Elizabeth Tlalang, a Pretoria-based attorney, has been struck off the roll by the North Gauteng High Court.
Acting Judge CI Moosa ruled in favour of an application brought by the SA Legal Practice Council (LPC), which took over the regulation of attorneys and advocates from the Law Society of SA in November.
The council wanted Tlalang disbarred as an attorney for misappropriating RAF funds that were in her trust account.
She was said to be in the wrong for allowing a lawyer suspended from the profession to practice under her law firm, Tlalang Attorneys, in 2016.
The lawyer, Mashilo Cyril Ernest Bopape, was suspended from the roll in 2013. The RAF smelt a rat when he settled several third party claims with the fund in the name of Tlalang Attorneys.
The RAF funds she was accused of misappropriating amounted to R1.7 million. The RAF deposited the money into her trust account in 2015, erroneously, after she represented an accident victim identified as LB Shirindi.
Tlalang allegedly used part of this money to settle a debt she had with another lawyer and transferred the remainder from her trust account into her business account.
She informed the RAF of the erroneous deposit three months after receiving it. Judge Moosa wrote in his judgment that Tlalang had used clients’ funds to repay the RAF when it demanded the money back from her.
The court made its ruling without hearing Tlalang’s defence, as on the day of the hearing she tried to have the matter postponed by producing her attorney’s sick note.
But this attorney had already informed the LPC 10 days before the hearing that he had withdrawn from the case.
Attempts to get comment from Tlalang were unsuccessful, after a man who answered her cellphone and claimed to be her father, said she was not available. Her phone was later switched off.
Judge Moosa described Tlalang’s conduct as “unprofessional and dishonest”.
“She transgressed various sections of the Attorney’s Act and Rules of the attorneys’ profession,” he said.
“Not only did she do all of the above, but at the hearing she tried to mislead the court to obtain a postponement. This points to a character flaw which does not bode well for her ability to be rehabilitated or gain insight into her transgressions.
“She is not a fit and proper person to practise as a legal practitioner, and should be struck off the roll,” the judge said.
He reminded Tlalang that lawyers should be honest at all times.
“The law exacts from an attorney the highest possible degree of good faith. An attorney must be honest, punctual and diligent in pecuniary matters,” he added.
Tlalang was admitted as an attorney of the high court in 2010. She obtained her LLB from the University of Pretoria. She joins the ranks of several lawyers who have been struck off the roll for embezzling RAF funds.
Former personal injury lawyers Ronald Bobroff and his son Darren were struck off the roll in 2016. They overcharged victims for claims against the RAF, and fled to Australia, where they are reportedly living a life of luxury.