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Picture: 123RF/SKYCINEMA
Picture: 123RF/SKYCINEMA

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) will recommend four senior advocates to President Cyril Ramaphosa for permanent appointment to the Gauteng division of the high court after concluding interviews with seven candidates on Thursday.

They are Soraya Hassim, Omphemetse Mooki, Johannes Strijdom and Brad Wanless. They all are “silks” — a title conferred after a recommendation to the president by fellow advocates at the Bar as a mark of experience and ability.

Hassim, from Pretoria, has been in practice for almost 30 years. She was praised by commissioners for her support of female lawyers. Hassim has written 55 judgments as an acting judge. The JSC noted a complaint against her by an attorney when she was an advocate, but this was dismissed by other members of the commission as baseless.

Mooki, from Johannesburg, told Gauteng Judge President Dunstan Mlambo he finds the busy high court “manageable”.

Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi highlighted Mooki’s various academic contributions in the areas of DNA science, intellectual property, and patents. Mooki assured Ngcukaitobi he would continue his contributions as he “always had broad interests”.

Strijdom has written 129 judgments and has been acting since 2013. He has been an advocate since 1994, mostly in criminal defence work.

Mlambo praised Strijdom for his willingness to serve, while the DA’s Glynnis Breytenbach complimented Strijdom’s character from their days opposing each other in criminal cases.

Wanless was making his fifth bid for the high court. He has been advocate since 1990 and an acting judge since 2012, with 50 judgments.

Deputy Chief Justice Mandisa Maya noted Wanless has received universal praise from all law bodies and colleagues, while Mlambo said he has been a constant “source of assistance” and that he has “become a judge by default”. Wanless has 14 years left to contribute to the bench.

Of the other candidates, Johannesburg advocate Shaida Mahomed started her career in public interest litigation, working at the public protector’s office, and the now disbanded Scorpions unit. Mahomed has penned almost 60 judgments as an acting judge.

Wits law professor Clement Marumoagae took issue with one of Mahomed’s judgments where he felt she had not “grappled with the principles” involving the law on children’s rights. Advocate Sesi Baloyi, referring to the same judgment, said she “felt cheated or tricked”. Mahomed responded that she had dealt with those issues and explained the case had been heard urgently.

Advocate Richard Mkhabela, also from Johannesburg, has been in practice since 2005. Commissioners praised Mkhabela, who grew up in poor circumstances and was a farmworker before studying law, as an “expression of ... hope”.

Baloyi questioned Mkhabela’s abilities in constitutional law. Mkhabela assured her that he is “comfortable” in such areas. However, Ngcukaitobi noted that “we want evidence of that claim”. Mkhabela conceded he didn’t have “judgments to that effect”. He hasn’t yet appeared in the Constitutional Court but has appeared as counsel in a Supreme Court of Appeal case.

Labour court judge Graham Moshoana is well regarded by the legal community and has acted for almost 10 years in the labour court before becoming a permanent judge six years ago. He has more than 300 written judgments.

Maya lightheartedly conveyed a “concern” by the Law Society that Moshoana needed “more time” in the court before being “elevated” to the high court. A baffled Moshoana responded that the labour court is also a superior court.

Several commissioners took issue with Moshoana’s connection to the law firm he left on becoming a judge. Moshoana said he had sold his shares in the company and was awaiting payment, though the JSC appeared bemused that he hadn’t been paid some six years later.

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