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Magistrates recommended for appointment as Judges after the April 2022 interviews

Magistrates recommended for appointment as Judges after the April 2022 interviews

Magistrates recommended for appointment as Judges after the April 2022 interviews

During the April 2022 session of the Judicial Service Commission, several magistrates put themselves forward as candidates for appointment as judges in the Superior Courts. We profile a few of those who interviewed successfully and were recommended for appointment.

Eastern Cape High Court

Two senior magistrates were one of six candidates vying for two judges’ posts in the major Eastern Cape city of Gqeberha: North West Regional Court President Vuyokazi Noncembu and Mr Mbulelo Nqumse.

Both sat through gruelling interviews, but only one of them emerged successful: Noncembu.

Prior to her appointment as Regional Court President in 2013, Noncembu sat as a magistrate in the regional court from 2013, and in the district courts since 2005. Before which she served as a public prosecutor in the Eastern Cape. The 50-year-old Nomcembu holds a BA and LLB degree from the University of the Western Cape and was one of the first magistrates trained in the Child Justice Act when it came into force.

Nqumse is a senior civil magistrate in the Eastern Cape and has also held several stints as an acting judge. He has twice come before the JSC but faced stiff competition each time. In the previous round, he faced off against 4 silks, a senior law professor and a senior attorney, specialised in administrative law, which probably explains why he was unsuccessful. JSC-watchers agree, he interviews well.

Free State High Court

Only one candidate with experience as a magistrate was shortlisted for Free State: Ms Cathy Paige. She spent 17 years (2002 – 2019) as a district magistrate in the Belville Court, Cape Town, before returning to private practice as an attorney. When asked during the JSC interview why she wants to return to the courts, Paige explained that she enjoyed adjudicatory work, and her years as a magistrate gave her exposure to that.

The JSC did not recommend Paige for appointment to the sole judge vacancy, likely because she was up against two senior advocates, one of whom was previously interviewed by the JSC.

KwaZulu-Natal High Court

Two candidates with experience as magistrates were among those shortlisted for three judge positions on the KwaZulu-Natal High Court. Only one of them was successful: Adv Rob Mossop SC.

Upon graduating with his BA and LLB degrees from UKZN, Mossop SC started his career as a candidate attorney, before becoming an attorney, and working as a corporate legal advisor. He also spent two years as a prosecutor, before serving five years as a magistrate (1991 – 2005). He eventually joined the bar as an advocate in 1996, obtaining ‘silk’ (or senior counsel) status in 2015. During his interview, Mossop credited his experience as a magistrate for giving him a solid grounding in criminal law and procedure, which he used in his practice as an advocate, and later as an acting judge.

The second candidate, Mr Linus Bhekizitha Phoswa, is one of the most senior magistrates in the Pietermaritzburg Regional Court. He graduated with Diploma Iuris, B. Iuris, and LLB degrees from the University of Zululand, and LLM from UKZN. Phoswa became a magistrate in the district court in Ixopo in 1995, serving in the regional court from 1999. He was an acting judge in 2010 and 2021.

Limpopo High Court

Only one candidate with experience as a magistrate and later magistrate-trainer was shortlisted for one of the two judge posts in the Limpopo High Court: Adv John Holland-Mütter SC.

He faced stiff competition from four (younger) advocates, and an attorney. But was likely unsuccessful, as he could not show sufficient connection to Limpopo, having lived and worked in northern Gauteng for most of his life.

Holland-Mutter graduated with a BA and LLB degrees from the University of Pretoria and Unisa, respectively. He served a short stint as a public prosecutor, before becoming a magistrate in 1982. He spent 10 years from 1988 as a judicial educator at Justice College and is recognised for having trained several other trainers who later become practitioners, magistrates, and judges of the highest courts.

Less magistrates clearing the judicial career path?

With this round being dominated by practising advocates, the April 2022 round of the JSC interviews had the lowest number of magistrates shortlisted and appointed to higher judicial office than in recent times. The career path into judicial office is not as clear or as linear as one would assume.

See the full list of candidates and watch the interviews for the JSC’s April 2022 sitting here: 

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