Letters to the editor – July 2019

July 1st, 2019

PO Box 36626, Menlo Park 0102

Docex 82, Pretoria

E-mail: derebus@derebus.org.za

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Letters are not published under noms de plume. However, letters from practising attorneys who make their identities and addresses known to the editor may be considered for publication anonymously.

Conveyancing examinations

I refer to the editorial ‘Conveyancing examinations: A source of gatekeeping?’ (2019 (March) DR 3).

It is my view that the inequalities that persist today have largely been attributed to Apartheid policies limiting access to quality education and the formal labour market, which served to keep people trapped in poverty. Transformation is a thorn in the side of the old Apartheid guards. I agree with the National Association of Democratic Lawyers’ assertion that the conveyancing examination committee is dominated by male Afrikaners who are still stuck in the past.

We all agree that Apartheid is not a viable option and it has been denounced by the world as an evil social system aimed at barring black Africans out of the economic system. The conveyancing examination was designed to particularly keep black Africans out of the system. I remember when I was at the practical legal school back in the mid-1990s our white lecturer once told us that commercial law practice was not for black people and so we have to memorise the course notes for the Admission Examination. According to her, we were destined for criminal law practice. At the same time the Black Lawyers Association suggested that conveyancing be taught at our law school and the suggestion was shot down by the white director of the school. The discrimination in the course is based on the language used to write the examination. We are asked to choose between Afrikaans and English.

It is obvious that legal practitioners who write in English are mainly black legal practitioners and it makes it much easier to spot black candidates. This also affects white candidates who choose to write the English examination to a certain extent, but the proficiency of the language favours them. If one was to take all the examination scripts of the past five years and compare the failure rate between Afrikaans and English writers, the majority of failures would be English writers. It is not true that legal practitioners lack practical exposure. Legal practitioners have written many examinations in the past without practical exposure and not all legal practitioners will serve their articles at a law firm that has a conveyancing department.

The other problem is the enrolment forms. Legal practitioners are asked to state the name of the law firm that they are working for, their race, gender and the university they graduated from.

What is the relevancy of this? Is it not helping the examiners to discriminate against us? The highest mark I ever got was 49,7%. Really? Can a person fail by just mere 0,3%? I had a remark and was marked down. I think the message was: Never question our decision. I have been writing the examinations for many years and there are many legal practitioners who are in the same predicament as I am. This discrimination is not only in the legal profession. It is also a reality for black chartered accountants, black property evaluators, and black estate agents. This is why many black people in these professions are organising themselves to challenge the gatekeeping tendencies.

I disagree with Pumla Mncwango and Audrey Gwangwa’s assertions. It is not practical exposure but pure gatekeeping and discrimination, which is the cause of the high failure rate. History will agree with me that prior to 1994 many black lawyers did not enrol for the conveyancing examination and there was no high failure rate. It began when we people of colour started to enrol for this course. We need transformation in the profession. Transformation and opening of our hearts will not lower the standard, but discrimination based on colour, language, creed, religion, gender in the legal profession is the root cause of the evil that will cast all of us asunder and disharmony among the members of the legal profession.

Pule Modise, member of Black Lawyers Association and practicing attorney, Groblersdal

The Legal Practice Council issued a notice on 4 March 2019, which stated that all examinations will be presented and conducted in English only. Candidates will also be required to answer the examinations in English only. Visit www.derebus.org.za/lpc-notices to follow the developments.

– Editor


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This article was first published in De Rebus in 2019 (July) DR 4.