During 2005, Ishmael Semenya SC, André Bezuidenhout and Vincent Maleka SC recognised the need to re-establish world-class chambers and facilities in the Johannesburg CBD. At the time, it became clear that a perception was created by the mass move of practitioners to Sandton that white is bright and black is blight. There was a general perception that Sandton attracted quality practitioners and the largely black members who remained in the Johannesburg CBD, were left behind to their own devices.
This could not be further from the reality, specifically considering that the South Gauteng High Court and the Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court are both situated in the Johannesburg CBD and continued as seats of justice being delivered to the public.
Semenya SC and Bezuidenhout proposed the concept to other practitioners and Modise Khoza SC, Tshepo Sibeko SC, Mbuyiseli Madlanga SC, Steph du Toit SC, Riaan Jonker, Johan Kilian and Chris Prinsloo joined the initiative to start Pitje Chambers.
At the same time, the establishment of the High Court Precinct (HCP) presented an opportunity to the private sector to refurbish, recycle and reinvest in properties. The HCP is based around the Court itself, the office of the National Prosecuting Authority and many legal firms. The regeneration of the CBD was pursued through close engagement between the City of Johannesburg and Pitje Chambers.
The HCP has now become a distinct growth area with its own predominant use and activities, of both regional and local importance in terms of the legal sector, thus strengthening functions to attract people and increase workforce with a particular emphasis on the spin-off and increased residential component and office refurbishment that offers a memorable and safe experience within the urban fabric.
The vision of Semenya SC and Bezuidenhout fitted in with becoming part of the HCP, which was extended to include the area where Pitje Chambers is situated.
Semenya SC and Bezuidenhout, with the support of Investec Bank purchased the building which was, at the time, derelict and rat infested. They created the Pitje Chambers Transformation Initiative to offer world-class facilities to practitioners. Pitje Chambers opened its doors in 2006 with five members. Several other Shareholders joined and the equity in the Company operating Pitje Chambers is now majority owned by black, practicing Advocates. Ten years later, with focus on meticulous maintenance, leadership and support to practitioners and the legal fraternity, Pitje Chambers has set a standard of excellence in the Johannesburg CBD.
Over the years, the core set of practitioners grew to make the Pitje Chambers Transformation Initiative one of South Africa’s leading Advocate groups, with a healthy reputation for competence in the legal fraternity. A unique collegial spirit, leadership, support and world-class facilities, sets Pitje Chambers apart from the rest.