The Legal Practice Council (LPC) wants fraud-accused lawyer Zietta Janse van Rensburg to be sentenced to six months behind bars for contempt after she appeared before the same judge who suspended her from practising law.

Van Rensburg claimed she had the constitutional right to appear before Mpumalanga High Court (Mbombela) Judge Brian Mashile because the case she acted in ‘revolves around an elephant, which is specifically protected game in terms of the Animal Welfare Act’. 

News24 reports that she stressed the case which concerned the fate of Tswale the rescue elephant, was in the public interest and was adamant she was not guilty of contempt.

Van Rensburg has also accused Mashile, who was due to hear the LPC's contempt case against her today, of being biased against her because of the extreme media pressure surrounding the multimillion-rand fraud accusations against her.

According to the deputy chairperson of the LPC's Mpumalanga provincial office, Sunita Townsend, Van Rensburg had been suspended ‘to protect the public interest and on the basis of objective evidence which showed beyond doubt that (she) had made herself guilty for the misappropriation of funds belonging to a deceased estate, which estate she was entrusted to administer’.

In a judgment delivered in April, Mashile and Acting Judge Lizanne Coetzee ordered the enforcement of the ruling that suspended Van Rensburg from practice, pending an investigation into allegations of multimillion-rand fraud against her. According to the LPC, Van Rensburg and her firm, Van Rensburg Inc, falsely claimed to represent property sellers in transactions and, as a result, received millions in payments that were not due to them.

When confronted and asked to transfer money back to the sellers, she allegedly used fraudulent proof of payment documents to claim that she had repaid the money she owed – while the outstanding cash did not reflect in the sellers' bank accounts.

Full News24 report