A group of foreign nationals, who were fighting to be admitted and enrolled as legal practitioners in SA, but lack permanent residency, yesterday lost their bid in the Constitutional Court.

TimesLIVE reports that the court dismissed the group's leave to appeal against a Free State High Court (Bloemfontein) judgment. It also declined to confirm that section 24(2) of the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014 (LPA) was unconstitutional and invalid to the extent that it did not allow foreigners to be admitted and authorised to enrol as non-practising legal practitioners.

In September last year, the court declared that section unconstitutional and invalid, but found the discrimination in section 24(2)(b) of the LPA was fair.

One of the applications was brought by Relebohile Rafoneke and Sefoboko Tsuinyane, both Lesotho nationals, who wanted to practise in SA. Another was brought by Zimbabwe nationals Bruce Chakanyuka, Nyasha Nyamugure and Dennis Chayda, as well as an asylum seeker refugee and migrant coalition.

The respondents were the Justice Correctional Services Minister and the Legal Practice Council.

Rafoneke and Tsuinyane both studied at the University of the Free State, where they obtained LLB degrees. They entered into contracts of articles of clerkship, completed vocational training, and passed the practical examination for attorneys.

When they applied to be admitted and enrolled as attorneys of the High Court, their applications were dismissed because they were neither South African citizens nor lawfully admitted to this country as permanent residents.

The Constitutional Court said section 24(2) of the LPA is legislation that regulates practice, legally-related occupations and professions in general.

It, however, found that the ‘regulatory competence exercised cannot be said to extend to non-citizens and their choice of profession as section 22 is a right in the Constitution that does not extend to them’.

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