Pretoria – Lobby group the Advocates for Transformation has lambasted the chairperson of the General Council of the Bar of South Africa (GCB), advocate Craig Watt-Pringle, for “pre-empting” the outcome of the probe into the conduct of advocate Dali Mpofu during his showdown with Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan’s lawyer, Michelle le Roux, at the Zondo Commission.
The organisation said yesterday it would lay a complaint of “improper conduct” with the Professional and Fees Committee of the Johannesburg Society of Advocates against Watt-Pringle. This was in relation to a media interview in which Watt-Pringle allegedly pre-empted the probe by saying that Mpofu’s telling Le Roux to “shut up” was outside the parameters of addressing colleagues.
The senior council at the Advocates For Transformation, Fana Nalane, said that Watt-Pringle had delved into the merits of the case during an interview on Newzroom Afrika before the Johannesburg Society of Advocates and Professional Committee of the Johannesburg Society of Advocates could deal with it.
Watt-Pringlee said, after confirming that investigations were under way, that:
“Telling a colleague to ‘shut up’ is way outside the parameters of the manner in which we may address our colleagues. We are not allowed to have our personal feelings enter into the way we conduct our matters. We have to conduct ourselves with dignity and decorum in the court.”
Nalane said when asked whether there was an alternate way in which Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo could have dealt with the situation, Watt-Pringle replied: “It does not matter whether Justice Zondo was right or wrong. He is the chair, he directs the proceedings. There is no excuse for counsel telling a colleague to shut up.”
Nalane said: “The Advocates For Transformation considers Watt-Pringle to have pre-empted the outcome of the probe and compromised the integrity of the processes prescribed by the constitutions of the Johannesburg Society of Advocates and the GCB, of which he was a member. They compromised the objectivity and independence of the GCB as a appellate body. The GCB could legitimately be seen to have prejudged the matter and undermined due process.“
However, Watt-Pringle said he was approached by the media to speak on the matter.
Watt-Pringle said he weighed in on the matter because Mpofu sought to undermine Zondo and Le Roux. He had to speak against such verbal abuse. He said he would not prejudice the case because his term as GCB chairperson would end in July.