Daniel Themba Mabunda, an attorney in Mbombela, Mpumalanga, was caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar of client funds. He not only helped himself to his clients’ Road Accident Fund (RAF) money, he even paid R50 000 to a stokvel from a client’s funds. In addition to this, he paid his creditors out of money belonging to clients of his practice.
The Mpumalanga High Court had ruled that Mabunda should be struck off the roll of attorneys and be handed over to the police for criminal investigation. Judge-President of the court, Francis Legodi, found that Mabunda misappropriated money due to accident survivors and acted dishonestly.
“Is Mr Mabunda still fit and proper to remain on the roll? I do not think so,” Judge Legodi said.
Mabunda had now joined a long list of lawyers struck off the roll for stealing RAF funds. The Law Society of the Northern Provinces launched the application for Mabunda’s disbarring after several complaints were made against him by former clients.
Mabunda, who was admitted as an attorney in 2000, had also given the law society the run around while it investigated him. He transferred RAF money deposited into his firm’s trust account to his business account. “Trust money shall in no circumstances be deposited in or credited straight to a business banking account,” said Judge Legodi.
Legodi made it clear that this rule was intended to protect the public and the image of the legal profession. The RAF had also recently encouraged road accident victims to claim directly from them. That meant the applicants were guaranteed to receive the full claim amount instead of using the services of a lawyer.
It became clear during the court case that Mabunda transferred R160 000 and R400 000 respectively to his business account. He also paid R200 000 into a bank account not belonging to the client. Another amount of R286720 was paid into a third different account.
“This, in my view, amounted to theft of trust funds belonging to (the client),” Judge Legodi said.