The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has recommended Judge Mmathebe Violet Phatshoane for the Deputy Judge President of the Northern Cape Division of the High Court.
Phatshoane was the only person to be interviewed for the position on Friday. According to Judges Matter, Phatshoane was interviewed twice unsuccessfully in 2017 to be the deputy head of the Northern Cape High Court division.
She was also a judge president of the Labour Court at regular intervals. Phatshoane was an attorney, lecturer, and headed a law firm.
She has been a judge since 2010. During her interview on Friday, she told members of the JSC that she’d led senior, more experienced judges in labour appeal panels who compliment her insight and integrity.
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She also said her “judicial sisters” sent her messages of support. Advocates in Kimberley have said she is “responsive” to their needs while engaging in local community activities. Phatshoane said she would bring leadership skills she had acquired at a law firm to her position as deputy judge president.
Meanwhile, advocates Lawrence Lever and Albert Nxumalo were recommended for the two vacant judges’ positions in the Northern Cape.
Lever, who has been acting as a High Court judge for five years, told the JSC on Friday about his work in the Northern Cape Bar Association and efforts to attract more youth and diversity into its structures.
“It is a challenge, but what I have done as a treasurer is build up a financial reserve in which the senior members contribute 10 times of what the junior members contribute.
“We have used those funds to sponsor one of our members to go to a training course in mediation in Stellenbosch, and we were able to do this by furnishing this member with an interest-free loan which she has paid back and will be used again for similar opportunities,” he said.
Lever’s stint as a DA MP was also questioned, to which he answered:
“I haven’t been involved in politics for 17 years now to the extent that the current representative of the DA on this body I’ve never met. I learnt a lot about myself in those five years. I am not a politician. I learnt that and I acted on it soon enough to save my personal space and my personal sanity.”
During the interviews, Nxumalo’s law qualifications came into question. He obtained his LLB while in exile in Nigeria, and after getting his degree, he took the Nigerian Bar senior exams. He became an advocate of the High Court of South Africa in 2003 and joined the Johannesburg Bar in 2006.
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Law JSC member and law professor Engela Schlemmer said she was concerned by Nxumalo’s understanding of South African law
“Your legal qualification in Nigeria, Nigerian law as far as I understand it is based on common law. That is the British Common law that you write with a capital C, South African law is based on Roman-Dutch law with huge influences of Roman law, and our common law with the small c is totally different from the common law of England at the common law in Nigeria.
“To me, that means you wouldn’t have had the exposure to our South African common law. All of the things you have said up until now in this interview and in your documentation doesn’t indicate to me that you have done anything to try and familiarise you with South African law sources,” she said.
Nxumalo said he was “embarrassed” that his understanding of South African law was even up for debate.
“I have been practicing as an advocate of this country for 14 years, I pay my bar fees, and I am not broke. It means there is something right that I am doing. I am instructed by some of the best attorneys in one of the busiest divisions, and I practice common law. I practice South African law. I am a South African practitioner. I study South African law, I’m a voracious reader, I am a fast learner, and I have been able to apply my skills in this country for more than 14 years,” he said.
The inreviews will resume on Monday.