A response to the editor on the implementation of the LPA

November 1st, 2018

In the editorial ‘Is the profession ready for the implementation of the LPA’ 2018 (July) DR 3, reference was made to several tasks (before the full enactment of the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014), which were either completed or near completion. The concluding paragraph stated that ‘a lot of work has taken place to ensure a smooth transition from the exiting regulatory bodies to the new LPC [Legal Practice Council]’.

As we reported on the De Rebus website (see Mapula Sedutla ‘LPC election results announcedwww.derebus.org.za), the newly elected LPC was announced on 8 October by the National Forum on the Legal Profession.

The election heralds a new era in the governance of the legal profession. For the first time, after many years of negotiations, members of the profession will be led by the people they have directly elected through a process agreed on by their elected representatives.

The successful manner in which the elections were conducted – despite some noticeable challenges – is significant in many ways, especially in regard to the fact that these were the first elections. It is also significant to note that the elections took place at a time when the country has been celebrating 100 years of the birth of Nelson Mandela (Madiba), the epitome of democracy and social justice.

Addressing the Law Society of the Transvaal on 29 October 1993, Madiba pointedly asked: ‘Let us look around us. Is this gathering of lawyers representative of the people of South Africa? … What of the composition of its council? Like the judiciary, the Bar and most other important institutions in our country, the attorney’s profession is dominated by white males. And most dominant of all appear to be the small number of large firms’.

Twenty-five years later, the legal profession has answered Madiba’s questions through the ballot in commemoration of his centenary. The election and the subsequent inauguration equally answered the question we posed in the July issue. Indeed, we have moved from despair to hope in our journey to realise the dream of our people for a legal profession that is free from the Apartheid era designed domination.

The dissolution of the provincial law societies decreed on by the Attorneys Act 53 of 1979 represents a welcome development in the demolition of the last standing structure of the Apartheid legal order. As the Constitutional Court observed in Head of Department; Mpumalanga Department of Education and Another v Hoërskool Ermelo and Another 2010 (2) SA 415 (CC) at para 45 and 47: ‘Apartheid has left us with many scars. The worst of these must be the vast discrepancy in access to public and private resources. The cardinal fault line of our past oppression ran along race, class and gender. It authorised a hierarchy of privilege and disadvantage. Unequal access to opportunity prevailed in every domain. Access to private or public education was no exception. While much remedial work has been done since the advent of constitutional democracy, sadly, deep social disparities and resultant social inequity are still with us.

… In an unconcealed design, the Constitution ardently demands that this social unevenness be addressed by a radical transformation of society as a whole.’

In recognition of the Constitutional imperatives, we have through the election of our chosen leaders resoundingly rejected what is old and transformed and embraced what is new and progressive.

As members of the legal profession and legal sector in our beloved country, we are able to affirm as correct the assertion made by former President Thabo Mbeki in his inaugural address on the 16 June 1999 when he said:

‘Our country is in that period of time which the seTswana-speaking people of Southern Africa graphically describe as “mahube a naka tsa kgomo” – the dawning of the dawn, when only the tips of the horn of the cattle can be seen etched against the morning sky.

As the sun continues to rise to banish the darkness of the long years of colonialism and Apartheid, what the new light over our land must show is a nation diligently at work to create a better life for itself.

What it must show is a palpable process of the comprehensive renewal of our country – its rebirth – driven by the enormous talents of all our people, both Black and White, and made possible by the knowledge and realization that we share a common destiny, regardless of the shapes of our noses’.

We have indeed moved a step forward in our journey to claim our rightful place among the democratic nations of the world. As Steve Biko said: ‘We have set out on a quest for true humanity, and somewhere on the distant horizon, we can see the glittering prize. Let us march forth with courage and determination, drawing strength from our common plight and our brotherhood. In time we shall … bestow upon South Africa … a more humane face’.

Maboku Mangena is an Editorial Committee member and a practising attorney, notary and conveyancer in Polokwane.

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2018 (Nov) DR 3.