An unscrupulous Francistown based lawyer, Moabi Madandume was on Friday struck off the register of practicing attorneys after being found guilty of professional misconduct.
The disbarment from the roll of legal practitioners was delivered by Francistown High Court Judge President Lot Moroka in a stinging 66 page judgment in which the court also ruled the law firm Mandadume Attorneys closed with the subsequent appointment of Carlos Chileshe as the curator appointed to take control of the firm’s trust account with all accounting documents and files for purposes of winding up.
The court ruling follows an application by the Law Society of Botswana which sought the removal of Madandume from the roll of legal practitioners and the closure of his law firm pursuant to a recommendation of the Council of the Law Society of Botswana disciplinary committee acting under section 50 (4) of the Legal Practitioners Act.
The background to the case is that on the 15th of April 2015, Hilda Kierstead lodged a complaint against Mandandume with the Law Society. The complaint against Madandume and his law firm was that Kierstead engaged the law firm’s services to resolve a dispute that had arisen between the complainant and the children of her late husband following his demise.
When engaging Mandadume, Kierstead agreed to pay the lawyer 30 percent from the proceeds of the sale of Lot 6247 for his legal services for his service. The warehouse was subsequently sold for P1 300 000 and in accordance with the terms of the agreement, Bank Gaborone paid the balance of P1 105 000 to Madandume Attorneys’ trust account.
The complainant stated that upon receipt of the payment for the sale of Lot 6247, Madandume took for his personal gain almost the entire amount instead of 30 percent thereof as agreed. The thrust of the complaint against Madandume is that he charged exorbitant fees and in fact retained more than what he had agreed to be his fees and failed to account to the complainant for the amount deducted.
The general characterization of Keirstead complaint centers around the lawyer’s professional misconduct alleging that he caused her to pay far more than he deserved to have been paid by overcharging her.
The complainant also submitted that instead of protecting her interests, Madandume took advantage of her vulnerability and caused her to sign a payment plan which disadvantaged her as she was only paid P214 000 from the sale of Lot 6247, which was sold for P1 300 000.
Justice Moroka held that the sanctions for Madandume’s acts of misconduct included untruthfulness to the disciplinary committee in his initial and very important answer to the query when he said Kierstead did not have even a Thebe to open the file when the opposite was true because she provided evidence that she paid P600.
Madandume further withheld information that two year prior to the conclusion of the dispute he was paid P123 600 by the complainant which he did not factor in the payout plan for his legal services.
Scathingly, Justice Moroka held that Madandume has been recalcitrant and sees nothing wrong with his conduct. “He is thus a danger to the paying clients”, pronounced Justice Moroka.
Deciding on whether the 30 percent is an acceptable form of charging legal fees, Justice Moroka said unlike in other jurisdictions, in Botswana there is no statute of payment of contingency fees to lawyers.
The presiding judge concluded that in terms of Roman Dutch common law, the payment of the contingency fee arrangement made by Madandume and his client was unlawful and in entering into it, Madandume committed an act of misconduct.
“On the basis of the foregoing I find that the 1st Respondent is unfit and proper person to practice as an attorney”, said judge Moroka who also ordered Madandume and his firm to pay the costs of the application before the court.
Attorney Lindiwe Mogale represented Law Society of Botswana while Madandume was represented by attorney Tshekiso Tshekiso.