The National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADEL) notes the statements made by Richard Spoor, who is an attorney in the current Silicosis case in the Gauteng High Court, with utter trepidation.
In response to a statement by Advocate Roshnee Mansingh, who had characterised the fact that of the approximately 42 advocates and 100 attorneys involved in this historic class action case as an “arrogant display of white privilege in a black country” because only two black advocates were in sight at court and that 98% of the attorneys were white men, Spoor stated that the work he does “doesn’t leave much room for charity or experimentation” in reference to briefing black counsel.
He also stated that his interest as an attorney “is winning the case and (he) (has) no latitude to accommodate unsuitable people” and that colour does not qualify black people if they do not qualify. His requirements for qualification to be briefed by him are being a summa cum laude graduate and bordering on genius. In addition, the people he briefs must have an “avowed and sincere commitment to public interest law”.
NADEL states for the record that we have never sought or advocated for charity and patronage from the privileged who command our country’s economic and social destiny. We shall only continue to agitate for a complete transformation of the legal profession and the socio-economic order of our country. Only such transformation will create a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society that we have always fought for.
As for Spoor, the dominant business class and the other largely racially and gender prejudiced privileged classes, your statements and conduct are further proof that the reconciliation agenda is a mere pipe-dream if the people of South Africa do not take command of the resources, wealth and social order of their own country.
The 20 years since the advent of democracy have not brought with them the desired change in the economic power relations in the private sector. May we say also that democracy has not brought about any meaningful change in how those who control political power view the competence of blacks, and especially black women’s competence when the State and other organs of State litigate in our courts. To steal from the Deputy Chief Justice, Dikgang Moseneke’s speech in a recent memorial lecture in honour of the late Godfrey Mokgonane Pitje,
“The power relations within an economy dictate choices of who should provide legal support services. The dominant business class calls the shots on the distribution of legal services to the profession and the acquisition of the required skills. Therefore, the dominant class dishes out patronage as it wishes and chooses. Briefing patterns of commercial or corporate work will always be reflective of the class, gender and race of the dominant decision-makers. So, briefing patterns are not a function of compassion and good-heartedness or a wish list. No amount of pleading will help. They are informed by both the financial interest and prejudices of the moneyed class. Often, all this boils down to them using the legal services of those with whom they share race, class and gender. It is a jolly waste of time to call for a transformation of the profession and, in particular, of equitable distribution of work without changing the economic power relations in the private sector. Nobody will argue against the need for transformation, not even those who do not support it. But it will simply not happen at the behest of the private sector.”
NADEL is not complaining that blacks were not briefed in this and other cases. We are reiterating our long-held view that until real transformation in the form of total control of both the economic and social formation of our country, the privileged will not surrender power and control of the destiny of our country.
ISSUED ON BEHALF OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF DEMOCRATIC LAWYERS (NADEL), SOUTH AFRICA.
By: Gcina Malindi
NADEL Publicity Secretary