Scores of lawyers may lose their practicing licences following ongoing moves by the government to amend the Legal Practitioners Act.
According to a draft of the Legal Practitioners Bill which is to be presented to the National Assembly for passing into law, a person will not be admitted to practice law in Botswana if that person has “been a subject of an investigation by a supervisory authority or investigatory authority in terms of the Financial Intelligence Act”.
The draft indicates that a new section has been inserted under Clause 8 of the Legal Practitioners Act “to address the deficiencies identified by the Eastern and Southern African Anti-Money Laundering Group in their 2017 Mutual Report”. Under this clause a “fit and proper person” means for an applicant to be a legal practitioner and notary or conveyancer to succeed, they shall not have been convicted of a serious offence in terms of the Proceeds and Instruments of Crime Act. The applicant shall not have been convicted outside Botswana of a criminal offence, If committed in Botswana, shall not be an unrehabilitated insolvent.
The draft states that the applicant shall also not have been a person holding a senior management position in a company which is disqualified from trading by a professional body or supervisory authority. A person who holds the qualifications and feels “hard done by” by these amendments may apply to the court by petition to be admitted and enrolled in the capacity specified in the application. The Bill states that every application for admission and enrolment shall be accompanied by documentary proof of possession by the applicant of the requisite qualifications.
According to the proposed amendments, a copy of every application, together with copies of supporting affidavits and certificates, shall be served upon the Attorney General and the Law Society not less than 28 days before the date of hearing of the application and such service shall be effected personally or by registered post. The Bill states that provided that the Attorney General or the Law Society may accept service for a lesser period, if they do so, then the Attorney General or the Society shall notify the Registrar in writing. The Attorney General, the Law Society or any legal practitioner may ask leave of the court to appear as a friend of the court to oppose the granting of such application.