Lobatse High Court Judge Steven Gaongalelwe this week dismissed attorney Motshegetsi Masoba’s application to be allowed to practice as an attorney in the courts of Botswana.
In his application, Masoba had stated that after obtaining his Bachelor of Laws in 1986, he was admitted as an attorney in 1987 and that he has never been suspended from practice nor declared unfit to practice law.
In an answering affidavit, the Executive Secretary of the Law Society of Botswana said that in October 2001 Masoba’s name was removed from the roll of practicing lawyers for failure to renew his practicing certificate, and that he was not restored to the roll until August 2002.
He said that in 1997, the LSB also obtained an order appointing a curator bonis to control and administer Masoba’s trust account following a finding that he had abandoned his practice without handing the files to the respective clients, or in any way facilitating them access to such files.
“It is common cause that the Court order was publicized twice in the Government Gazzete and in newspapers. Though he admitted to being aware of such, Masoba never challenged the order in any manner, never took the matter on appeal or sought rescission on it,” he said.
In the judgment Justice Gaongalelwe said that Masoba has never disclosed in his affidavit that there was more litigation concerning his practice as an attorney. He added that the curator bonis reported that the records of Masoba’s trust account are incomplete.
“I could not find any cash book. The cheque stubs from the date account was opened in November 1995 up to 11 April 1996, receipts and some of the bank statements are also missing. Due to the inaccessibility of Masoba and the absence of complete records and information, I am not in a position to determine whether the trust account was properly conducted and administered,” read part of the report.
It also emerged that Masoba had previously lodged a case in the High Court seeking an order that the Registrar issue him with a practicing certificate but the application, and the subsequent appeal were dismissed.
Despite all that, Masoba contends that all these matters are not harmful to his application as he was never convicted of any criminal offence nor found guilty of any act of misconduct by the disciplinary committee of the LSB.
“In deciding a case of this nature, the Court has to determine whether the practitioner has done anything which is dishonorable, disgraceful and morally reprehensible. We are never to lose sight of the need to safeguard the integrity of the profession, and never to allow for any compromise of the standard of honesty and forthrightness required of legal practitioners. While the conviction of a statutory criminal offence would not, on its own, disqualify a practitioner, one need not necessarily have been convicted of a criminal offence to be rendered unfit,” said the judge.