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'Increase in bogus lawyers worrying,' says Mnangagwa

by Auxilia Katongomara
24 Jun 2016 at 06:57hrs | Views
THE Government is worried about the increase in bogus and unscrupulous lawyers who are defrauding the public, Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said.

VP Mnangagwa who is also Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister said the Government had noted the worrying reports of people who have lost money and property to unruly lawyers.

"…this is especially in view of worrying reports of bogus and unscrupulous lawyers who are on the prowl to fleece the public of their hard earned cash in matters relating to the transfer of real rights or immovable property," said VP Mnangagwa.

He was responding to a question by Mutoko East MP, Nelson Mawere who had asked the Government to consider regulating fees charged by lawyers and publishing houses for the processing of Deeds of Transfer.

He said attorneys in general practice are required to charge their client fees in terms of the General Tariff of Fees for Legal Practitioners, approved by the Minister of Justice and published by the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ), with effect from February 2011.

"It is significant to note that legal practitioners are legally obliged to charge fees that are fair and reasonable. Therefore, it is considered by the law that the charging of a fee higher or lower than that set out in the tariff is illegal," said VP Mnangagwa.

"As such, it is mandatory for legal practitioners to charge fees in terms of the tariff or face the real risk of disciplinary action for charging unreasonable fees".

The LSZ tariff requires that legal practitioners charge fees on an hourly basis, though it is recommended that attorneys break down the hour into smaller units to ensure more accurate billing. The rate charged per hour is dependent on the individual legal practitioner's experience with an inexperienced one charging considerably less than a senior one, he explained.

According to Statutory Instrument 24 of 2013 called the LSZ (Conveyancing Fees) By-Laws the schedule seen by Chronicle, conveyance fees range from $50 to $600 depending on the nature of the transfer.

In recent years a number of lawyers have appeared in courts on allegations of embezzlement of clients' funds. This resulted in the LSZ closing some firms and de-registering lawyers for lack of professional conduct.

In May, the LSZ barred 35 lawyers from operating after they failed to renew their practising certificates while others are facing disciplinary action or have abandoned the practice.

The LSZ is reportedly investigating several lawyers countrywide in connection with corruption and theft. Bulawayo law firm Cheda and Partners was placed under curatorship last year after the legal profession regulator detected alleged abuse of trust funds running into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The law firm's demise was triggered when its two senior partners, Sindiso Mazibisa and Mlamuli Ncube, surrendered their practising certificates.

The duo remain suspended pending de-registration. They are accused of theft of at least $335,000 in trust funds.

The third senior partner, Mr Nqobizitha Ndlovu, was later suspended by LSZ for interfering with the curator Advocate Perpetua Dube's duties.

Last week, the LSZ filed an urgent chamber application seeking to have another Bulawayo law firm, James Mutsauki Attorneys placed under curatorship and its owner's practising certificate cancelled over alleged trust fund fraud involving more than $30,000.

James Mutsauki, who is at large, is alleged to have committed acts of unprofessional conduct by abusing funds from his law firm's trust account.

Source - chronicle