National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete's lawyer was subject of criminal investigation

19 February 2016 - 11:04 By Amanda Khoza

National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete's lawyer Lindi Nkosi-Thomas, who gained dubious social media fame after fumbling through her submissions on the Nkandla matter in the Constitutional Court last week, was the subject of a criminal case, according to a report.

The House of Assembly in Cape Town. File photo.
The House of Assembly in Cape Town. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images / The Times / Anton Scholtz

News24 reports that the Public Protector's office told News24 that South African Airways had asked it to halt its investigation into Nkosi-Thomas, pending a fraud case against her that was the subject of a police investigation.

But when approached for comment, neither the police nor the National Prosecuting Authority wanted to elaborate on this; while Nkosi-Thomas told News24 in an interview that the matter had been laid to rest.

The Public Protector had been investigating complaints that Nkosi-Thomas allegedly doctored a legal opinion during her tenure at the SAA board.  

"The investigation was underway, with documents having being secured from SAA and from advocate Nkosi-Thomas, when we learned that the matter was a subject of litigation in the Labour Court and subsequently Labour Appeals Court," Public Protector Thuli Mandonsela's spokesperson Oupa Segalwe said.

“It also came to our attention that the matter is a subject of a criminal investigation for the alleged fraud relating to the legal opinion in question."

SAA had asked Madonsela to put her investigation on hold pending the outcome of these processes.

NPA spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku said they had no knowledge of the matter.

Nkosi-Thomas, however, told News24 that she was aware of both the Public Protector’s and police’s investigation.

"The National Prosecuting Authority told me that they declined to prosecute."

She said that on March 19, 2013, Peter Hudson had lodged a complaint of unprofessional conduct against her with the Johannesburg Bar Council. At the time she was a non-executive director for SAA.

On October 7, 2013, the Johannesburg Bar Council said its professional sub-committee had decided that the complaint did not sustain a case for unprofessional conduct and had closed the inquiry.

Nkosi-Thomas said the complaint emerged in December 2013, when the SAA board was considering the validity of an agreement to hire four consultants, including Hudson.

The board decided that due processes were not followed and that the contract be terminated.

When asked for her legal opinion, the acting head of SAA's legal department, Fikile Thabethe, concluded that due process was not followed in the appointment of the consultants. Thabethe however stated that despite non-compliance with due process, the contracts were valid and enforceable.

Nkosi-Thomas said she took issue with this as she viewed the contracts as ultra vires (beyond legal power and authority) and void ab initio (invalid from the outset). Thabethe had correctly stated that their procurement was in contravention of due process, Nkosi-Thomas said.

Nkosi-Thomas said she debated the issue with Thabethe, who agreed with her views.

Thabethe subsequently wrote a draft letter for board chairperson’s signature, saying the contracts were to be treated as invalid.  

"Soon thereafter, Thabethe went on leave and left the country. The matter was urgent and members of the committee asked for her opinion. When I could not find her, I amended the changes to reflect our agreed position before her departure and circulated it accordingly."

Nkosi-Thomas said when Thabethe returned from leave, she disputed having agreed that the contracts were invalid.

Hudson’s contract was terminated and he failed in a Labour Court bid to be reinstated, Nkosi-Thomas said, adding that the court essentially agreed with her view that the contract was concluded in violation of due process.

"This matter has been laid to rest, as far as I am concerned," she said.

Source: News24