Three East London law firms properly appointed to provide legal services to the Amathole district municipality (ADM) have stopped the municipality from bypassing them and procuring legal services from other firms.

A Daily Dispatch report says law firms Wesley Pretorius & Associates, Clark Laing and Smith Tabata took their corporate client to court after ADM reneged on a 2016 tender award to provide legal services on a rotational basis, with fees set at the lowest amount tendered.

At the centre of the fiasco is ADM municipal manager Dr Thandekile Mnyimba, who replaced former ADM boss Chris Magwangqana in June 2017 and appeared to object to the three-firm legal panel the administration had set up under Magwangqana.

When the ousted Magwangqana instituted legal proceedings challenging Mnyimba’s appointment, the new municipal manager sought other legal representation.

In June 2017, Mnyimba instructed the ADM CFO that an urgent deviation to appoint Somerset East attorneys Lionel Trichardt & Associates in the court case brought by Magwangqana was necessary since the panel attorneys probably had worked closely with the former manager.

But, without any reference to the Magwangqana matter, Mnyimba then appointed Lionel Trichardt for three years for ‘a whole spectrum’ of ad hoc legal services, including labour, local government and administrative law.

The East London firms said they had directly suffered financial losses due to work not being assigned to them, and had been unable to pay their invoices on time because of payments made to the Somerset East and Port Elizabeth lawyers.

The Daily Dispatch report says in her judgment, Eastern Cape High Court (Makhanda) Judge Thami Beshe agreed the manner in which the three other law firms were appointed was unfair, inequitable, opaque, anti-competitive and cost-ineffective.

She dismissed a counter-application by Lionel Trichardt & Associates, supported by Mnyimba, for the contracts with the East London firms to be set aside.

Beshe found against ADM and Mnyimba, interdicting them from engaging Lionel Trichardt Attorneys and ordering the municipality to comply with its contract with the three firms.

It must also provide a full accounting to the three firms of the work done by the Somerset East and PE law firms, she said.

Full Daily Dispatch report (subscription needed)