Advocate disbarred for concealing criminal past

08 June 2018 - 06:30 By Philani Nombembe
Scales of justice in a court of law. File photo.
Scales of justice in a court of law. File photo.
Image: Thinkstock Images.

An advocate has been disbarred after trying to conceal his criminal past.

Former traffic policeman Sipho Mziako‚ from Pretoria‚ abandoned his application for admission as an advocate in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court about seven years ago when the society of advocates in the province asked him uncomfortable questions.

They asked for a full disclosure about his conviction for fraud‚ theft and corruption and serving an 18-year prison sentence in 1995.

They also wanted him to provide a “copy of the entire record of his criminal trial and any subsequent appeals; a record of all the Department of Correctional Services’ recommendations concerning his sentence; copies of their reports and recommendations by his parole officers and superiors that led to his release from prison”.

He abandoned the application but made another in the High Court in Pretoria in 2010. Eventually‚ he succeeded in an application to be admitted by the High Court in Kimberley in 2013 when he provided a local address. Mziako studied law in prison and obtained his law degree in 2008.

He stated‚ among other things‚ that: “I am a law abiding citizen and have no criminal record or pending criminal case against me. I submit that I am a fit and proper person to be admitted as an advocate and I am unaware of any fact that may adversely affect my status of being a fit and proper person.”

But the High Court in Kimberley has now ruled that he lied about his criminal record. He also failed to reveal that ABSA Bank had obtained a judgment against him in 2007 and his property in the “Rustenburg District was attached”.

Judge President Pule Tlaletsi‚ with acting deputy judge president Cecile Williams concurring‚ struck Mziako off the roll of advocates.

“[Mziako’s] failure to make a disclosure of his record to the court that granted his application for admission as an advocate‚ taken together with his persistence that he is not obliged to disclose his criminal record that when he mentioned that he has ‘no record’ was not referring to a criminal record‚ his forum shopping‚ and his general conduct in opposing this application is‚ in my view‚ sufficient proof that he is not a fit and proper person to continue to practice as an advocate‚” said Tlaletsi.

“Although [he] contends that there has never been a complaint against him since his admission as an advocate and that he is also a lay preacher‚ I still have doubts about his reformation.

“The least he could have done to show that he is reformed would have been to disclose his previous convictions to the courts and not engage in a well calculated forum shopping until he was admitted by this court. His applications to Gauteng‚ KwaZulu-Natal and this court also raise doubt as to whether he indeed resided in these places within such a short period.”

Mziako was also slapped with a costs order. His cover was blown when a magistrate in Ga-Rankuwa raised concerns about his admission as an advocate.

The magistrate wrote to the former Northern Cape Judge President Frans Kgomo stating that Mziako had not disclosed his conviction and a 25-year prison sentence handed down by the Regional Court in Pretoria.

The sentence was reduced to 18 years on appeal to the then Transvaal Provincial Division. An investigation followed and the Northern Cape Society of Advocates‚ after seeking assistance of the North West Bar‚ then took legal action.

Mziako could not be reached for comment.