Monday, January 24, 2022

Power struggle divides legal fraternity

Botswana lawyers are at each other’s throats as factions of the legal fraternity jostle for the control of the Botswana Law Society. Two lobby lists, one headed by Botswana Football Association President, Tebogo Sebego and another headed by current President Lawrence Lecha has turned “learned friends “into mortal enemies, ahead of their Annually General Meeting slated for Kasane next weekend. It is understood that Lecha and Sebego fell out when Lecha bulked at plans to oust current Executive Secretary Tebogo Moipolai.

In a written document passed to the Sunday Standard, lawyers who are rallying behind Sebego and his team argue that the Lecha led council has abdicated its authority to the Executive Secretary to act as a demi-god of the law society to actuate suspending and striking of Attorneys from the Roll on flimsy grounds of alleged misconducts. “The Council is always hostile and insensitive to lawyers even when they could be natured; council fails to render public education to ill-informed members of the public on the legal costs and engagement of legal services in the country. This would go a long way to reducing frivolous public complaints and give lawyers a chance to assist their clients effectively, other than now where even complaints based on lack of procedure knowledge results in fines against the Attorneys,” document reads.

Lawyers said for the first time in the history of the Law Society, the Executive Secretary has engineered a revenue generation scheme by levying frivolous fines against Attorneys. They said where attorneys inadvertently fail to settle fines a deputy sheriff would be instructed by Executive Secretary to execute against the said Attorneys, to coerce them to pay fines without question. “The Executive Secretary’s yearn to generate revenue, owes itself to the financial crisis, his hefty salary rumored to be around P50, 000.00 a month has occasioned. His salary is highly unsustainable, especially as is compounded by a 10% annual escalation already incorporated into his contract of employment, with or without good performance by him,” document reads. They complain that the work relation between the Executive Secretary and private lawyers is at its lowest ever. The lawyers are aggrieved that the same employee they are paying could be so disrespectful and contemptuous to them, even to the point of refusing to talk to them. They noted that the Executive Secretary is a financial liability to the society and very expensive to keep as the law society does not generate any revenue except from its subscriptions. “The lawyers are generally unhappy with the victimization of some private lawyers or anybody, who expresses different views or criticizes the Council for any maladministration,” they noted.

The lawyers said the Council has failed to promote unity among lawyers, as it has even failed to facilitate the establishment of a Lawyersclub/inn where lawyers could converge for recreational purposes as likeminded professionals and deal intellectually with issues of professional development. “Compared to Mr. Sebego, Mr. Lecha’s council has no legacy to celebrate about, as Mr. Sebego’s council secured the current Head Office building of Law Society free of debt and stabilized the practice conditions for lawyers, and even rehabilitated some lawyers who had been removed from the Roll, whereas under Lecha, lawyers are aggrieved and de-motivated. “I am thinking that this is fueled by the upcoming AGM. I know about the issues that were raised against Lecha and his Executive Secretary. Obviously I am privileged to know about the lobby-lists. My worry is people seem to be putting their personal interest first to an extent of damming the same law society they want to head,” said a veteran lawyer He explained that the executive secretary is a secretary to the council, and not a member of council. “He is more like the chief executive and council is more like the board.

Members of the law society elect members of the council. The council has seven attorneys a majority with more than 10 years practice and running own law firms. Similarly the Executive Secretary is secretary to the Disciplinary Committee whose members are again very senior,” he said adding that the Chairman must have been practicing for more than 30 years, three members of more than 20 years and another of more than 10 years and therefore it cannot be true that the executive secretary has fined anyone or even influenced the Disciplinary Committee. “It is the Disciplinary Committee which fines lawyers for misconduct and it the same Committee that issues Writs of Executions for unpaid fines in accordance with the Legal Practitioners Act,” he said. The council and the Disciplinary Committee are expected to meet once a month. “There is no way the Executive Secretary can do anything on his own as alleged by the document. Anything is done on the strength of the council resolutions,” he explained He noted that it was an obvious lie to suggest that the executive Secretary can influence the seven lawyers that form a council. Reached for comment Moipolai dismissed the document as cheap politics, “they are motivated by the upcoming general elections as their campaign strategy. None of what is written in the said document is factually correct,” he said.

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