No gown for wannabe advocate who hid his criminal record

15 September 2018 - 09:00 By Philani Nombembe
Judge court gavel
Judge court gavel
Image: Gallo Images/iStockphoto

An advocate who was disbarred for trying to conceal his criminal past and his 125-year prison sentence has been dealt yet another blow.

The high court in Kimberley has sunk Sipho Mziako’s bid to save his robes‚ dismissing his application for leave to appeal its earlier order striking his name off the roll of advocates.

Mziako‚ a former policeman from Pretoria who studied law in prison and obtained his degree in 2008‚ 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.

He had failed to disclose that he had been convicted in 1995 of:

• 13 counts of fraud;

• 11 counts of theft of motor vehicles;

• One count of theft of a motor vehicle engine; and

• Five counts of corruption.

The regional court in Pretoria sentenced him to a total of 125 years’ imprisonment but ordered that the sentences run concurrently‚ resulting in an effective 25 years’ imprisonment. The sentence was reduced to 18 years on appeal to the then Transvaal Provincial Division.

Mziako abandoned his application when the society of advocates asked for 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; and copies of their reports and recommendations by his parole officers and superiors that led to his release from prison”.

In 2010 he made another unsuccessful application at the high court in Pretoria to be admitted as an advocate‚ but finally succeeded in Kimberley in 2013 when he provided a local address.

Mziako stated‚ among other things: "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.”

Earlier this year‚ the high court in Kimberly ruled that he had lied about his criminal record. He also failed to reveal that Absa had obtained a judgment against him in 2007 and his property in the “Rustenburg district was attached”.

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 has not disclosed his conviction and sentence.

An investigation followed and the Northern Cape Society of Advocates‚ after seeking assistance from the North West Bar‚ took legal action.

“I am not convinced that another court will come to a conclusion different from the one we reached in this matter‚” said Judge President Pule Tlaletsi. “There is no compelling reason why the appeal should be allowed.”