Tag Archive | Minister Jeff Radebe

Legal Practices Bill looks like having a safe passage

Opposition bound to come on separation of powers

The amount of work done behind the scenes between private judicial parties and the ministry of justice that took place before the tabling of the Legal Practices Bill by justice minister Jeff Radebe, appears to account for the remark made by department of justice official, JB Skosana, to opposition parliamentarians that “account had to be taken of the significant concessions made in the bill by the justice minister in tabling the Bill”. The Bill is a Section 76 Bill meaning that it has to go to all nine provinces for debate and mandates through the NCOP.

During public hearings on the bill earlier, Adv. Jeremy Gauntlett said in his submission that the Bill as proposed was “the biggest single threat to an independent legal profession in SA’s legal history”. More public hearings are scheduled and the final date for submissions extended (July 31).

Department of justice, in giving their responses to all submissions made during the original hearings told the parliamentary portfolio committee on justice and constitutional affairs that his department could not “find anything opposed to law” and, they added, “On the contrary, we believe the bill will strengthen the rule of law.”

Bill says professions must reflect national demographics

Skosana told parliamentarians that it was the department’s view, after many discussions with the legal profession, that their “continued independence now permeated the bill”. The Bill proposes that advocates be treated the same as attorneys, which may result in conflict with these professions

Skosana said that in the original draft the proposal was that the minister should appoint all members of the new council to replace existing structures such as the Law Society but the bill before them clearly showed that that 16 of the 21 members would be appointed by the profession, three by the minister and one each from the law schools and the Legal Aid Board.

This represented “a U-turn”, Skosana said, on the part of the minister, drawing comment from opposition members that indeed such concessions were in the right direction. From this it appeared that the Legal Practices Bill will see safe passage through both the NA and the NCOP.

Nevertheless, the main issue at the core of the debate and the main raison d’être for the bill’s introduction was clearly, from representations made by the department of justice in their earlier briefings, to deal with the high cost of legal fees in South Africa. The Bill as proposed raises the issue of “capping” fees, giving the new council powers to do this through the minister.

ANC will push Bill through

Such facts have clearly emerged in government statements recently, particularly in the area of transport where past deputy minister of transport, Jeremy Cronin, had complained bitterly on the issue of high legal fees which had drained the Road Accident Fund.

Departmental official Skosana complained that “the only people who could easily access legal services was the state when using taxpayers’ money; the very poor getting assistance from the Legal Aid Board.” He added that the wording of the proposed Bill said fees would be capped only as a result of advice by the new council.

The bill is now to be debated amongst parliamentarians of the committee themselves and more consultation in the form of hearings called for.

 

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