Judge raises the Bar
SA’s newest Constitutional Court justice talks about her ‘long and thorny’ journey to the top
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“I preferred to first serve in an acting position to gain the experience. Of course I was scared. It’s the highest court in the land. I’d heard stories and didn’t know how I was going to fare when I went there.
“But I must say, it was a pleasant surprise when I found great colleagues. I just grew. I was able to work freely and the assistance was there. We agreed and disagreed, but it was a wonderful year.”
Mhlantla returned to the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein last year.
The Constitutional Court vacancy was then advertised and she accepted nomination.
Interviews were conducted and her 25 years of experience as a lawyer and judge put her ahead of the three other women interviewed by the Judicial Service Commission.
“I’m elated. At first, I was shocked when I heard [about my appointment]; I even cried.”
Mhlantla (51) was an attorney for 12 years, then spent six years as a small claims court commissioner.
She became an acting judge of the Eastern Cape High Court in April 2000. She was confirmed to that Bench in 2002 and spent six years there until her appointment in an acting capacity to the Supreme Court of Appeal.
Not much will change in her routine when she moves to Johannesburg next month.
The single mother of a 28-year-old daughter says she will still commute home to the Eastern Cape now and again to see her family. She has been doing the commute for years.
She concedes that her career has been stressful, but she is used to it.
“Of course you are not home on holidays; you are home with your records, preparing for your next matter.”
Judge Nonkosi Mhlantla has been appointed to the highest court in the land