A South African citizen who lodged an appeal in the Supreme Court against a decision of the High Court to deny him admittance as a legal practitioner in Namibia, lost his appeal with costs last week.
Three acting judges of appeal dismissed Peter Watson’s appeal against a decision by the High Court to endorse a decision by the Law Society of Namibia (LSN) not to allow him to practice law in Namibia lawfully because he omitted in his application to mention that he was barred from practicing law in his native South Africa.
Watson applied for a certificate of exemption from the Board for Legal Education and was granted the exemption, which allowed him to sit for the Legal Practitioner’s Qualifying Examination, which in turn would allow him to apply for admittance as a legal practitioner at the High Court.
However, when he applied to be admitted and enrolled as a legal practitioner at the High Court, the LSN opposed the application on the basis that he was not a “fit and proper person” to be admitted and enrolled as a legal practitioner in Namibia.
The basis for their opposition was that Watson failed to disclose that he was suspended from the roll of attorneys in South Africa. The High Court upheld the objection of the Law Society, and Watson then appealed that decision in the Supreme Court.
He argued that he was under no obligation to disclose to the board that he was suspended from practice when he applied for a certificate of exemption, and only the High Court could determine whether he was a fit and proper person to be admitted. He duly informed the High Court of his suspension when he applied to be admitted as a legal practitioner in the High Court.
The Law Society, however, maintained that he was under a duty to disclose the facts of his suspension to the board, and that he was dishonest. They further argued that his dishonesty was compounded by his contention that he was still on the roll of attorneys in South Africa while he was indeed removed.
Acting Judge of Appeal Theo Frank, with judges Hosea Angula and Shafimana Ueitele concurring, found that Watson was self-serving when he did not inform the board of his suspension, thereby avoiding the risk of his application not being considered.