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Woman sues lawyer for settling out of court

by Sunday Express
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Caswell Tlali


MASERU — A prominent lawyer, Hopolang Nathane, is at loggerheads with a former client who accuses him of making an unauthorised out-of-court settlement with a company she was suing.
‘Mamatlakala Maphisa is accusing Nathane of negotiating a M120 000 settlement with Total Lesotho (Pty) Ltd without her consent after she had claimed M3.5 million from the company as compensation for a piece of land the company is using in Ha-Nyenye in Maputsoe.
Maphisa has since terminated her relationship with Nathane’s law firm.
Documents seen by this paper show that Nathane refused to release Maphisa’s file to her new lawyers saying she had not paid him his outstanding legal fees.
Maphisa’s agent, Ishmael Monare, has since lodged a complaint with the Law Society of Lesotho which is now dealing with matter.
Maphisa works and stays in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The dispute, which is over a piece of land that Maphisa owned, started in the late 1990s following an error by the Commissioner of Lands.
The Commissioner of Lands issued Maphisa title deeds to the land but proceeded to give a lease for the same land to one Pule Cheko.
Using the lease Cheko, according to the court papers, sold the land to a company called Maputsoe Properties for M100 000. 
Maputsoe Properties then developed the site and leased it to Total Lesotho (Pty) Ltd which registered the mortgage bond in its name.
Maphisa then sued Cheko, Maputsoe Properties and the Commissioner of Lands and on January 21 1998 the High Court ordered that Cheko should pay Maphisa the value of the site minus the value of improvements on it.
The court papers show that the High Court ordered Cheko and Maputsoe Properties to pay Maphisa for the land.
But because Total Lesotho, which is running a filling station at the site stood to lose business because of the dispute, the company allegedly volunteered to pay Maphisa to secure its business interests.
This was after the company had filed a High Court application seeking to intervene in the dispute.
Maphisa said she wanted M3.5 million as compensation for the land but Nathane allegedly settled for M120 000 with Total Lesotho which now has business rights to the site.
Disgruntled, Maphisa then dumped Nathane and hired Patrick Kgoadi Chambers to take over her case.
Advocate Koili Ndebele of Patrick Kgoadi Chambers wrote to Total Lesotho in January last year protesting that the settlement had been made without Maphisa’s consent.
“That settlement was made without client’s mandate, instructions and consent,” reads part of Ndebele’s letter.
“This is because when that settlement was reached the client had already terminated the mandate with attorney and counsel of record.
“Be informed that the client is seriously concerned about the conduct and interference of your respective company in this matter.
“If the client can suffer any loss as a result of your interference, your company will be held liable thereto.”
The Sunday Express understands that the Law Society wrote Nathane to inquire about Monare’s complaints.
Nathane wrote back saying he was not aware that Monare was Maphisa’a agent.
“From the onset, I wish to state that I was all along not aware that Mr Monare is the agent of Mrs Maphisa, as I was never at any stage notified of such a state of affairs either verbally or in writing,” reads Nathane’s response to the Law Society.
“I have known Mr Monare simply as a friend and messenger of Mrs Maphisa.”
Nathane explained that he handled the matter for a long time and Monare had always been accompanying Maphisa and they were both “constantly appraised of developments” of the case.
“In fact, Mr Monare on behalf of client who incidentally resides permanently in South Africa attended to our offices almost on a daily basis and was given a report,” Nathane wrote.
Nathane alleged that some of the services he rendered Maphisa were not paid for.
Nathane said Monare influenced Maphisa to dump him and appoint Patrick Kgoadi Chambers because he had personal quarrels with his law firm’s secretary.
“A problem arose between Mr Monare and our secretary who was his tenant, and of which we were then not aware,” he said.
“Mr Monare nonetheless chose not to inform us but instead influenced client to consult and actually passed by our offices and took her to Kgoadi whom then wrote a letter demanding that we withdraw from the case.
“I must mention at this juncture that the negotiations for settlement were already at a very advanced stage.”
The settlement, Nathane said, was sought because it was almost impossible to prove the claim Maphisa was making because Mokonyana Ntsekhe, the sole proprietor of a firm that was appointed to value the land, had died.
“Although it was made clear that with the death of Mr Ntsekhe the chances of proving the claim was absolutely non-existent hence the resort to settlement, Mr Monare nonetheless insisted upon going on with the legal battle,” he said.
Nathane in the letter said when he finalised negotiations for settlement he had received the go-ahead from Maphisa and was acting in what he believed was in her best interest.
Nathane however told the Sunday Express that he could not comment because the matter was in the hands of the courts.

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