Judge raises the Bar

SA’s new­est Con­sti­tu­tional Court jus­tice talks about her ‘long and thorny’ jour­ney to the top

CityPress - - News -

Will Jus­tice Mh­lantla’s ap­point­ment in­spire other women in the male-dom­i­nated le­gal pro­fes­sion?

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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.”

PHOTO: ELIZ­A­BETH SE­JAKE

JUS­TICE DONE

Judge Nonkosi Mh­lantla has been ap­pointed to the high­est court in the land

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