- The Advocates for Transformation says the Pretoria Society of Advocates’ list of recommended candidates for silk (senior counsel) status reflects its failure to uphold the values of transformation.
- It says the exclusion of black legal practitioners is systematic.
- But the society says the claims are unfounded and that it is committed to transformation.
Advocates for Transformation (AFT) says it’s disappointed by the Pretoria Society of Advocates’ (PSA) list of recommended candidates for silk (senior counsel) status.
The group said in a statement that the list of eight candidates, which News24 has seen, reflects the PSA’s failure to “embrace the fundamentals of transformation”.
AFT Tshwane chairperson Matlhaba Manala told News24 it was a shame that almost 30 years after the dawn of democracy, the PSA did not have a black candidate to recommend to President Cyril Ramaphosa. He said two black candidates submitted applications but were rejected.
“How can you have a mini white list of advocates being recommended to the president for conferment of silk without any black names? That in itself is wrong. You can’t have that in this country, not in this day and age. It is not reflective of the race dynamics and race composition of this country,” Manala said.
He added that the exclusion of black legal practitioners was systematic.
Manala added: “People are not being provided with the opportunities and today when they must be promoted to the status of senior counsel, they are being told ‘you do not have the prerequisite skills; you do not have the exposure; your CV is not impressive.”
For black practitioners, years or decades of work experience were not enough to propel them to the same heights as their white counterparts, Manala said.
According to him, other considerations include the number of cases practitioners have had in higher courts, including the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) and the Constitutional Court.
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“If I have been in practice for 14 years and I’m unable to assert a case that has been in the Constitutional Court or in the SCA, then it will automatically say I am not good enough as an advocate and cannot be a senior counsel,” he said.
PSA chairperson advocate Marc Leathern told News24 AFT’s claims were unfounded. Contrary to its claims, he said, the PSA was committed to transformation.
“Each year, the PSA invites those members who wish to apply for the award of senior counsel to do so. This year the PSA received 14 applications for the award of silk. After careful consideration of the applications, considering all the relevant criteria, the silk committee unanimously decided that it should only recommend the applications of eight of those candidates,” Leathern added.