Share this article:
The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) completed marathon interviews Friday to fill vacancies in the country’s judicial bank.
The commission had been in office since April 12th. The big highlights of the process were interviews for vacancies at the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court of Appeals (SCA).
This week the commission nominated candidates for high court positions in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape.
The JSC recommended Judge Roland Sutherland to be named Assistant Judge President for Gauteng – a division with the highest case load.
Sutherland was the only candidate to stand up for the role of DJP. He has been a judge since 2012 and in the DJP role since 2019. His most notable case recently was when he turned down Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku’s offer to challenge a SIU-PSA tube against him.
The commission also nominated six candidates to fill positions in the Gauteng High Court division – one of the busiest divisions in the country.
The JSC selected the following candidates: Judge Nelisa Phiwokazi, moving from Mpumalanga; Lawyer Petrus Malindi SC; Norman Manoim; Mandla Mbongwe; Advocate Portia Phahlane; and Judge Mashudu Munzhelele.
During the interviews, the candidates were asked about reserved judgments. It is a general rule that judges should do their best to deliver judgments within three months of hearing a judicial matter. A belated judgment can be seen as denial of justice.
Mashudu Munzhelele, a regional judge in Limpopo, said she made belated judgments due to inability to judge.
“I have no pending judgments. My average performance is three months. I find this is unacceptable because people are waiting for their orders to wait for their fate. The belated justice is the denied justice,” she said.
Munzhelele doesn’t have much acting experience in the High Court but insisted that she was ready to be appointed judge.
JSC commissioners were particularly interested in Munzhelele because they openly raised awareness of her difficulties in working as a disabled judicial officer.
She said she struggled daily to gain access to other parts of the court besides her courtroom.
The commissioners were stunned, and lawyer Dali Mpofu said he would personally prepare a proposal that section 174 (1) of the constitution should include diversity beyond race and gender.
This section of the Constitution deals with the appointment of judicial officials and does not deal with diversity beyond race and gender when making appointments to judicial positions.
In the department of the Mpumalanga Supreme Court, the first deputy judge-president (DJP) was also appointed.
Judge Segopotje Mphahlele received the nod despite concerns about her decision on the 2016 Mpumalanga coffin case, which was amended by the Supreme Court of Appeals (SCA).
The DJP role is the first for Mpumalanga – a department that candidates say does not have adequate legal support.
Mphahlele was interviewed together with judge Anna Kgoele – a judge appointed in the Northwest since 2009.
Mphahlele was first appointed judge in 2013 and previously worked in the Gauteng division.
On Thursday, Judge Muzikawukhelwana Ncube, a former court interpreter, was nominated to serve as a judge for KwaZulu-Natal on a secondment to the Land Claims Court.
Ncube shared his passion and support for land reform – specifically the rights of work tenants.
Ncube has served as a judge on the Land Claims Court for 38 years and a judge since 2006. He has a variety of degrees in environmental law.
He was asked about his views on land expropriation without compensation. Ncube said he supported the view of expropriating land with compensation because he believed that the land problem in the country could never be resolved without addressing the matter.
The JSC also recommended that the following people fill three vacancies at the KwaZulu-Natal Supreme Court bench: Attorney Bruce Stanley Michael Bedderson, Mfuniselwa Elijah Nkosi, and Attorney Carol Sibiya.
On Friday, JSC appointed Matthew Francis and attorney Nobahle Mangcu-Lockwood as judges in the Western Cape section of the High Court.
The nominations are confirmed by President Cyril Ramaphosa.