Magistrate who stole kids' inheritance finally struck off roll
He's been practising for 11 years despite being convicted of depriving them of the little they were left by their father
Eleven years on and a former Pinetown magistrate, who was convicted of stealing R10,000 that three children were left by their father after he died, has finally been struck from the roll of attorneys.
Mbongeni Mathe has been practising as an attorney since he was convicted in 2007 and sentenced to three years of community service, one of which was suspended on condition that he repay the money to the children’s grandmother, Cynthia Jili.
Jili, the mother of Sikhumbuzo Emmanuel Ndlovu, and other relatives appeared before Mathe for an “estate inquiry”, during which the magistrate directed Jili to withdraw invested funds of R15,000 so they could be distributed to Ndlovu’s children.
But when she handed over the money, Mathe gave only R5,000 to the children and said the rest would be deposited at the cash hall at the magistrate’s court, from where it would be invested in the Guardian’s Fund.
But this never happened. And while Mathe sought to blame this on a clerk, his version was rejected by the trial magistrate.
Mathe unsuccessfully appealed to the full bench of the high court in 2013.
Then, in an attempt to delay the strike-off application by the KwaZulu-Natal Law Society, he claimed he had lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).
In a judgment by Judge Yvonne Mbatha, with Judge President Achmat Jappie concurring, the judges said the law society had been kept waiting for five years because of this.
“It was only when the attorneys acting for the law society made inquiries that the registrar of the SCA said there was no such case registered.”
Mathe then filed a further affidavit in July this year, claiming that he had now “reinstated” his appeal against conviction and sentence.
The judges said this was “opportunistic” and the delay had allowed him to remain practising as an attorney and “kept him away from prison doors” for five years.
Mathe argued that the “misconduct” occurred before he was admitted and enrolled as an attorney.
But the judges said that the conviction and sentence both fell past his admission as an attorney, and he had not disclosed that he was being investigated for criminal charges at the time of his admission.
“Theft is an act of dishonesty. The theft in this case was committed against three minor children who were deprived of the very little inheritance their father left for them.
“He was employed as a magistrate. He had no reason to steal from the poor. His conduct had severe repercussions for the family. Jili suffered a stroke whilst giving evidence and this is an indication of the stress she was bearing.
“This kind of conduct is not required in the profession which requires honest and high moral standards. The public needs to be protected from persons like him who abuse their positions of trust.”
The judges ordered that his name be struck from the roll, that he be indicted from practising as an attorney and that he pay the law society’s legal costs on a punitive scale.