Members of Law Society Botswana(LSB) this past weekend decided that South African lawyers should be banned from practicing in Botswana if LLB qualifications from the University of Botswana(UB) and Botswana lawyers are not recognized in South Africa.
The LSB discussed the issue over the weekend during its Annual General Meeting (AGM) and elections of council members. The AGM’s main agenda was to adopt a motion that since South Africa does not recognize LLB from UB, there is no reciprocity as required by the Legal Practitioners Act, therefore South African Legal Practitioners should not be admitted to practice in Botswana until the LLB from UB is included in the list of approved qualifications.
While the motion on the same decision could not be passed since its mover, Marvin Torto did not attend the AGM, it was decided that Section 6 (1) of the legal practitioners act be used as it provides for “a reciprocal provision in the law of the country of which he is a citizen to permit a citizen of Botswana qualified in terms of the laws of that country to be admitted to practice in that country,” meaning that South African lawyers will only be recognized in Botswana if their country recognizes Botswana lawyers.
In the absence of reciprocity, the LSB vowed to oppose petitions for admission and the right to practice in the country, and that such petition would be opposed on the basis that the South African Attorney Act does not provide reciprocity to Botswana. Reciprocity, the lawyers say, is a joint pre-condition for admission and cannot be separated from the other existing conditions.
The motion which The Botswana Gazette has seen, wanted the Chief Justice and the Ministry of Defence Justice and Security to engage their South African counterparts to add Botswana to the list of recognized countries for admission under Section 13(1) of the South African Attorneys Act of 1979. According to the motion, there is a need for the Law Society of South Africa to recognize Botswana and the University of Botswana Law to allow for mutual admission.
LSB also wants South African advocates to comply with Botswana immigration laws, saying
“In order to appear before the Courts of Botswana a foreign Advocate must accordingly have obtained the necessary authorization and or exemption to engage in their occupation for reward, which of necessity must accompany a petition for admission to the LSB and the High Court.”
The motion further states that all petitions for admission to practice in Botswana by South African advocates on either an ad hoc or permanent basis be accompanied by a work permit or exemption certificate issued under the Immigration Act, of the person so applying.
In an interview with The Botswana Gazette, LSB Executive Secretary Thapelo Moipolai said the elections went well despite Torto’s absence and that they found a way forward in Section 6 (1) of Legal Practioner’s act. Newly elected Council Chairman Kgalalelo Monthe reiterated Moipolai’s comments that LSB members decided to rely on current legislation as the motion could not be adopted in Torto’s absence.
“We may take a resolution at a later stage. Maybe anytime…We may also convene a special meeting for the adoption of a resolution,” Monthe said.
Seven members of the council were voted, with Onalethata Kambai voted to deputize Moipolai. Other members who were voted are; Paul Muzimo, Ricardo Seabueng, Kusigane Mbambo, Tiroyaone Ezekiel and Mirriam Mokgethi.