The court of Appeal has barred a senior attorney from practice over misappropriation of trust funds.
In a ground breaking judgment issued in Gaborone on Thursday morning, the court ordered the Botswana Law Society to strike the name of Sam Mutoriti from the roll of legal practitioners which is kept by the Registrar of legal practitioners.
Although his law firm, Mutoriti Attorneys remains in operation, Mutoriti, who is said to be a Zimbabwean national, is likely to lose his work permit, according to the rules.
“Attorneys Miss Kugisani Alidi and Mr Zaeem Anwar are appointed curators bonis to control and administer the trust account(s) of Sam Mutoriti Attorneys with immediate effect,” Judge President, Ian Kirby made the ruling.
What led Mutoriti to lose his practicing licence is a sum of P210 000 which was deposited into his trust account by Dr Greyford Zulu, to pay for a house he (Zulu) was purchasing. Information before court suggests that Zulu was assured by Mutoriti that the house would be transferred into his name within two weeks. That was in June 2012.
Further evidence led in court suggests that this did not happen and in due course Dr Zulu requested a refund which he repeated on several occasions. His money was not repaid and Mutoriti proved elusive and In September he then furnished Dr Zulu with a copy of a bank transfer slip, claiming to have repaid the money into the doctor’s account.
That information proved false as the money was not paid.
Weeks later he is said to have confessed to Zulu that he had used the money for his own personal use. He then repaid P50 000 and undertook in writing to pay a further P50 000 before the end of September and to clear the balance on 12th October. Nonetheless he failed to do so and only deposited P20 000 in October. Zulu then reported him to the LSB and also laid the charge of theft with the police.
Mutoriti later paid Zulu all his money, but evidence before court, shows that the issue was not amicably resolved within the time limit set. Even though Zulu withdrew the case from the LSB after receiving all his money, the LSB established a case of professional misconduct against Mutoriti.
Mutoriti is said to have been not so cooperating with the law Society and not very truthful and on the 8th August, the Society informed him that the disciplinary committee has found him guilty of misconduct and has recommended to the LSB council that he be disbarred.
The council approved the recommendation but Mutoriti opposed it and the matter reached the High court. Mutoriti contended that his removal from the roll is “a very extreme and catastrophic sanction reserved for those who display a grave and irreparable defect of character.”
He further pleaded that he was the sole proprietor of his practice from which he supported his wife and five children.
His other contention was that the LSB relied upon the single, isolated and withdrawn complaint of Dr Zulu, “while acknowledging simultaneously that I was admitted as far back as 1993 and by necessary implication have had an unblemished record all this time.”
Mutoriti was admitted to practice as an attorney in Botswana in 1993. However according to Tshiamo Rantao of Rantao Kewagamang Attorneys, who represented LSB in this matter, Mutoriti did not really have an “unblemished” record because, in February 1999, he was removed from the roll after failing to renew his practising certificate. This followed a damning audit report commissioned by the Law Society after receiving “a string of complaints from the public.” The audit, however, could not be completed because Mutoriti said he had lost certain of his receipts books and other documents in an office move. His trust account was found to be not properly kept.
Although the High court did find Mutoriti guilty of professional misconduct, Justice Mothobi ruled that he be suspended for a period of twelve months, which suspension was to be suspended for a period of two years on condition that he did not within that period commit any act of misconduct or any conduct which includes fraud, breach of trust and disgraceful or dishonourable conduct incompatible with the status of a legal practitioner.
It was against this ruling that the LSB appealed the matter that led to Mutoriti being barred from practice by the court of Appeal, which is the highest court in the land.
The court of Appeal argued that, the fact that Mutoriti repaid Zulu his money does not detract from the gravity of his offence. That he would be “embarrassed, by being struck off the roll, that his children and wife would suffer and that his five employees would lose their jobs, according to the Judge President, are foreseeable consequences common to the cases of most attorneys who stand to be struck off for misconduct.
“They are by no means exceptional, let alone rare, so as to depart from the normal sanction for dishonesty of striking out,” the Judge pronounce and added that, “this was a clear case of theft by an attorney of large sum of money held by him in trust on behalf of his client. The proper sanction was one of striking him from the roll and this was by no means ‘wildly disproportionate’, as argued by the respondent. It was the proper order and it is the one that I will now substitute for the order of Mothobi J.”
Judge President, Ian Kirby made the ruling together with a panel of two other Judges, Lord Abernethy and Isaac Lesetedi.
Kirby further warned practising attorneys against misconduct and advised them to read the ground breaking judgement.
Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Kabo Morwaeng together with Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Elias Magosi, this week refused to name and shame the worst performing Ministries and to disclose the best performing Ministries since beginning of 12th parliament including the main reasons for underperformance.
Of late there have been a litany of complaints from both ends of the aisle with cabinet members accused of providing parliament with unsatisfactory responses to the questions posed. In fact for some Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) backbenchers a meeting with the ministers and party leadership is overdue to address their complaints. Jwaneng-Mabutsane MP, Mephato Reatile is also not happy with ministers’ performance.
Bokamoso Private Hospital is battling a P10 million legal suit for a botched fibroids operation which resulted in a woman losing an entire womb and her prospects of bearing children left at zero.
The same suit has also befallen the Attorney General of Botswana who is representing the Ministry of Health and Wellness for their contributory negligence of having the unlawful removal of a patient, Goitsemang Magetse’s womb.
According to the court papers, Magetse says that sometimes in November 2019, she was diagnosed with fibroids at Marina Hospital where upon she was referred to Bokamoso Private Hospital to schedule an appointment for an operation to remove the fibroids, which she did.
Magetse continues that at the instance of one Dr Li Wang, the surgeon who performed the operation, and unknown to her, an operation to remove her whole womb was conducted instead. According to Magetse, it was only through a Marina Hospital regular check-up that she got to learn that her whole womb has been removed.
“At the while she was under the belief that only her fibroids have been removed. By doing so, the hospital has subjected itself to some serious delictual liability in that it performed a serious and life changing operation on patient who was under the belief that she was doing a completely different operation altogether. It thus came as a shock when our client learnt that her womb had been removed, without her consent,” said Magetse’s legal representatives, Kanjabanga and Associates in their summons.
The letter further says, “this is an infringement of our client‘s rights and this infringement has dire consequences on her to the extent that she can never bear children again”. ‘It is our instruction therefore, to claim as we hereby do, damages in the sum of BWP 10,000,000 (ten million Pula) for unlawful removal of client’s womb,” reads Kanjabanga Attorneys’ papers. The defendants are yet to respond to the plaintiff’s papers.
What are fibroids?
Fibroids are tumors made of smooth muscle cells and fibrous connective tissue. They develop in the uterus. It is estimated that 70 to 80 percent of women will develop fibroids in their lifetime — however, not everyone will develop symptoms or require treatment.
The most important characteristic of fibroids is that they’re almost always benign, or noncancerous. That said, some fibroids begin as cancer — but benign fibroids can’t become cancer. Cancerous fibroids are very rare. Because of this fact, it’s reasonable for women without symptoms to opt for observation rather than treatment.
Studies show that fibroids grow at different rates, even when a woman has more than one. They can range from the size of a pea to (occasionally) the size of a watermelon. Even if fibroids grow that large, we offer timely and effective treatment to provide relief.
The Alliance for Progressives (AP) President Ndaba Gaolathe has said that despite major accolades that Botswana continues to receive internationally with regard to the state of economy, the prospects for the future are imperilled.
Delivering his party Annual Policy Statement on Thursday, Gaolathe indicated that Botswana is in a state of do or die, and that the country’s economy is on a sick bed. With a major concern for poverty, Gaolathe pointed out that almost half of Botswana’s people are ravaged by or are about to sink into poverty. “Our young people have lost the fire to dream about what they could become,” he said.