Young leader envisages a legal profession that will account to its members

May 1st, 2023

In this new series of feature articles, we will be focusing on young legal practitioners who want to be a part of change. Our first featured legal practitioner is Zincedile Monde Tiya.

In this series of feature articles, we will be focusing on young legal practitioners who want to be a part of change, who are vocal and passionate about the transformation of the legal profession. Our first featured legal practitioner is Zincedile Monde Tiya. Mr Tiya was born in Ngangelizwe Location and went to Khanyisa High School in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape Province. Mr Tiya holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts (BA-Translation) from the University of Transkei, now known as Walter Sisulu University (WSU), he also hold a Baccalaureus Legum (LLB) from WSU. Mr Tiya is currently in his second year as a Master of Laws candidate at WSU. He did his Practical Legal Training at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Part I) and the University of the Witwatersrand (Part II). Mr Tiya also went to Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute at the University of South Africa to study Thought Leadership for Africa’s Renewal (NQF level 6), and Political Economy of Africa (NQF level 6).

He is currently practising at Zincedile Monde Tiya Inc, where he is the sole director of the law firm, which is run with three candidate legal practitioners. The firm focuses on Road Accident Fund (RAF) claims, claims against the Minister of Police, medical negligence, criminal law, divorce and has an interest in municipal law.

Mr Tiya serves in the National Executive Committee of National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADEL) as the International Relations Officer, he serves as a Council member in the Southern African Development Community Lawyers Association (SADC LA) representing South Africa. He is also an alternate in the House of Constituents of the Law Society of South Africa’s (LSSA) and a member of the Specialist Criminal Law Committee, Joint LSSA GATS (including Foreign Qualifications Committee), Legal Aid, Pro Bono and Small Claims Court Committee and the Standing Committee on Legal Education. Mr Tiya is also in the Investigations Committee and Disciplinary Committee of the Legal Practice Council in the Eastern Cape. He is also an examiner for Competency-Based Examination for Admission as an Attorney.

He is also an Anglican and a Church warden. He serves on the Valuation Committee of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs in the Eastern Cape as Deputy Chairperson. He is also the former Student Representative Council President at WSU and a former President of the Convocation Alumni of WSU. Mr Tiya is a Mpondo.


Kgomotso Ramotsho (KR): When did you know that you wanted to become a legal practitioner?

Zincedile Tiya (ZT): When I was growing up there was a Xhosa television drama series on SABC 1, which was called ‘Unyana Womntu’ with the main actor called ‘Bantu Zathu’ who was erroneously arrested, found guilty and sentenced for murdering his girlfriend to life imprisonment. I was inspired by the court proceedings and how the magistrate was respected. I then decided that I want to be part of the court decorum and wanted to be respected. My mother always encouraged us to pray for what we want to become when we were older. I always prayed that God must grant me wisdom, I want to be a lawyer.


KR: What in your opinion are the characteristics of a good leader?

ZT: A good leader to me is someone with characteristics of ubuntu, which includes aspects of humanism, dignity, respect, solidarity, compassion, and service to others. The spirit of ubuntu is central to the way in which leaders think, speak, conduct themselves, and interact with others. There are five core values that leaders must have, namely; respect, honour, service and compassion and empathy. Prof Hellicy Ngambi further thought of us as RARE leaders, which stands for: Responsible, accountable, relevant and ethical leadership, all of which I subscribe to. I subscribe to the above theories of leadership and believe that those are characteristics of a good leader.


KR: You are passionately vocal when it comes to issues of transformation in the legal profession. What drives this passion?

ZT: I come from rural areas, and I could see the imbalances, which were created by the past, hence the profession is still white male dominated. I am for equality before the law and in the profession. I always want to make a difference in representing those who do not have the opportunity to represent themselves but who are struggling. My allegiance is with those who are not receiving any work from the biggest client, which is government. Those who do not get good work, proper recognition by government and by courts which are young black African legal practitioners and in particular, women. Briefing patterns are still a huge battle ahead of us that we must vanquish one day.


KR: Do you believe transformation is occurring? If not, what do you think are some of the obstacles preventing it?

ZT: Transformation is occurring, but very slow and at times we go forward and go backwards. At the risk of appearing ridiculous, I believe our government has failed to advance transformation in the profession. I have interacted with many practitioners most of them believe that it was better during the provincial law society times than the Legal Practice Council (LPC) regime. We believe the LPC is too bureaucratic and not accountable to the profession that it regulates. We envisage an LPC that will call conferences and come to account to the members of the profession. It is a wrong democracy that you are elected by the public but you do not account to the public. Government is less consultative specifically regarding black African young and/or junior legal practitioners. Government conduct is lugubrious, and they do not know our needs and views on pertinent issues of transformation that can make this profession better and more accessible. The legal profession is white male dominated and leadership of the profession must be negotiated that ‘one man, one vote’ election because we in rural areas will never be heard because we are few. The Minister must start consulting us and creating platforms for us to ventilate.


KR: Do you think the issues being raise regarding transformation are the right ones?

ZT: Issues raised regarding transformation are important and fundamental such as, briefing patterns, fair representation in the Council (geographical, gender, race and age/experience), one unified profession etcetera. Work must be redistributed from government fairly to all practitioners. Municipalities require law firms to produce ten letters of recommendations from municipalities that such firm was doing work for. There are points you lose if you do not have such letters. This means that junior law firms cannot get work from government because they do not have recommendation letters. That is clear gatekeeping.

Black African females and young/junior black African legal practitioners are always victims of gatekeeping. They do not get work fairly like their counterparts. They do not receive robust legal education support. They do not get fair participation on transformation of the legal profession. They do not get fair treatment from the courts. On leadership positions, old male legal practitioners purport as if they are doing them a favour by electing them to positions of leadership. There is not adequate funding (grants/loans) made available for the young legal practitioners and black African female. Safety and Security Sector Education and Training Authority and other Sector Education and Training Authorities are still funding more of the white owned law firms. Rural areas need to be prioritised in this type of funding, by either grants/loans so as to redress the imbalances created by the past.


KR: Do you think young legal practitioners are taking a stand and are participating in the transformation of the legal profession?

ZT: Legal practitioners are apolitical, they are not participating in the transformation of the legal profession. Black lawyers, from the old guard in particular are self-centred, and do not care about transformation. The old guard do not even understand what is expected out of them in Practical Vocational Training even though they have candidate legal practitioners in their firm. Even when you call them to a meeting, if you are not going to talk about the RAF and payments by a state attorney they will not come as if all is well. While the profession is still in the hands of the minority whom dominated the profession, whom are still respected by courts and government. The participation of black lawyers even on development of the jurisprudence is minimal. We are grateful by the rise and the contribution of legal practitioners Muzi Sikhakhane SC, Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC, Dali Mpofu SC, Vincent Maleka SC, Viwe Notshe SC etcetera. We are grateful of leadership of NADEL, the Black Lawyers Association and the LSSA. They are paving the way for our future.


KR: Are young legal practitioners being given a chance to partake in discussions and decisions for the betterment of the legal profession?

TZ: Young legal practitioners are not given a chance to partake in discussions and decisions for the betterment of the profession. The young lawyers are not assisted even by government to organise themselves. There are no programs directed at advancing their cause. Even with the LSSA Annual General Meeting (AGM), BLA AGM and NADEL AGM you will not find in the agenda points that seek to talk to the participation of young lawyers, their role, their challenges, and their views. The LPC elections are talking about elections along racial lines, gender lines and nothing about youth or junior legal practitioners. The last time I saw an item speaking to young lawyers was when we were in SADC LA Conference in Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls in 2019 under the stewardship of Max Boqwana. Even structures that elect young lawyers in their executives do so for the sake of compliance with the constitution and transformation agenda, but they do not give youth or juniors a fair chance until young ones wage a fight against the old guard. Issues of young or junior legal practitioners are not taken serious by the old guard. The old guard is oppressive. I can safely say that they fear us.


KR: Tell us about your role in the LSSA’s Young Lawyers forum and what is the objective/goal of the forum?

TZ: The forum was appointed for the sake of compliance with the AGM resolutions. I was fortunate to be part thereof and we sat a meeting once and we raised several pertinent issues, including being represented in the LPC and LSSA Council. After the submissions we made we were never called back again. The forum became defunct, and I believe that was done deliberately by the old guard. The issues of young lawyers at times will be outsourced while we are available and ready to serve. It is time to revive Young Lawyers forum of the LSSA.


KR: You are a member of NADEL. How important is it for young legal practitioners to be a part of such organisations? How does it support young legal practitioners?

TZ: I recommend all young attorneys and/or lawyers to be part of structures like NADEL that are progressive and for transformation. It is important to be part of those structures so that we make noise to the old guard up until they hear us, and up until we will be able to mobilise and take over. Such structures help us to understand the dynamics in the profession, challenges, transformation agenda, rule of law, members’ interest, regulation patterns and briefing patterns. Then by so participating we grasp the necessary experience so we may lead the profession tomorrow.


KR: Who is your mentor in the legal profession and why?

ZT: I have no mentor. I am on my own. I am not the only one, most black young practitioners are on their own. The old guard is doing their own things in their own way caring less about the cadets and second layer. They see us as their opponents.


KR: Describe the kind of legal profession you envisage for the future.

ZT: The legal profession I envisage in the future is the one where leadership will be voted fairly, along gender, race, and age/experience. A legal profession that will be accountable to members of the profession. A legal profession that will be inclusive and fair to all races and ages. To me it has become apparent that unification of the profession is a dream deferred. The hostility of the advocates profession and rigidness of the General Council of the Bar tells us clearly that we still have a long way to go. There is supposed to be one legal profession, one legal education, one exam, one council that regulates the profession. The judiciary is supposed to stop undermining legal practitioners practising as attorneys. Equality should start in the Bench, and stop intimidating junior lawyers, and teach, train, and prepare us as future judges with great humility, ubuntu and compassion. I am not flummoxed by the slow pace of transformation because youth is not involved. The struggle continues.

Kgomotso Ramotsho Cert Journ (Boston) Cert Photography (Vega) is the news reporter at De Rebus.

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2023 (May) DR 23.