IN FOCUS: Meet the new president of the SCA, Mandisa Maya

2017-06-02 09:57
Justice Mandisa Maya, president of the Supreme Court of Appeal. (Picture: Supplied)

Justice Mandisa Maya, president of the Supreme Court of Appeal. (Picture: Supplied)

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Last week President Jacob Zuma appointed Justice Mandisa Maya (53) as president of the Supreme Court of Appeal. After a busy first week in office, she answered some of News24's questions.

You are the first woman to hold the position of president of the Supreme Court of Appeal since the establishment of the court in 1910. Do you feel added pressure due to this fact?

Not really. I have been in the leadership of the court since 2015, first as an acting deputy president and then as deputy president to a head of the court who was close to retirement and gradually left much of the running of the court in my hands, although he was always available to give me guidance.

I have been the acting president of the court, with no deputy to assist, since 1 October 2016. It also helps a lot that the Supreme Court of Appeal is a senior court with experienced and very supportive judges who do not need to be monitored but actually help me in running the affairs of the court.

One would imagine that being president of the SCA comes with a substantial burden to be fair and just in the judgments you make. Do the legacy of our past and the effect it has had on racial and economic equality at all affect the cases that cross your bench?

Almost all, if not all the serving members of the South African judiciary are post-1994 appointees. And in any case all the judges are bound by the Constitution and its prescripts. South Africa’s unfortunate history should therefore not have any bearing on the manner in which her judges adjudicate the cases that are brought before them.

There has been a lot of talk recently about the overburdening of the judiciary due to failures in other spheres of government. What are your views on this and what remedy is there, if necessary?

The courts have an obligation to adjudicate all cases which the Constitution and the law empower them to hear. The judiciary can only carry out that obligation to the best of its ability and hope that the other arms of government will do likewise.

What are your views on judicial overreach? Is this a real threat in South Africa?

The courts have never arrogated to themselves any powers that do not rightly belong to them under the Constitution and the law. They have never hesitated to acknowledge where they did not have the jurisdiction to entertain a case. The judiciary will continue to perform its functions in terms of the Constitution and the law. 

What do you think is the biggest obstacle to a free and equal South Africa for all?

Inequality, which breeds the poverty, the violence, the greed and all the social ills that threaten to destabilise our country. 

Your family must be very proud of your accomplished career. What is your proudest achievement?

My beautiful children. My husband, Dabula, and I have been blessed with a daughter, Wela, and sons, Zizi and Jama, who daily fill our hearts with pride and joy. 

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