'Shipping competency' lands aspiring judge in troubled waters

2015-10-07 18:32
(File, iStock)

(File, iStock)

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Cape Town - From farm school to Free State bench - that is the background of one of the youngest candidates being interviewed for one of two High Court vacancies in the province.

Nobulawo Martha Mbhele, 42, was born in Lindley, between Steynsrus and Bethlehem, and attended school on the farm where her parents worked until her father took another job in Harrismith.

Free State Judge President Mandisa Maya defended her relative youth, saying she was appointed to the bench at 25.

There was a moment of confusion when Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke wanted to know why she had listed shipping among her competencies, when she worked in the Free State. She said that must have been an error.

Mbhele's father eventually became a farm owner himself through a government programme. Mbhele was put through university by one of her two policemen brothers and a Mr Dell, her father's previous employer, paid her registration fees.

It was at the University of Turfloop that she became active with the Christian Students Movement, which was in partnership with the Pan Africanist Student Movement of Azania (Pasma), using her knowledge to reach out to surrounding communities in Mankweng advising them on basic legal issues.

She has since moved on to the ANC because Pasma did not have a 'footprint' in the Free State.

'Confident and capable'

"I always wanted to become a lawyer," said Mbhele, who described herself as "confident and capable" in spite of an objection by the Free State Society of Advocates that she only had four years' experience in court and four stints as an acting judge in the province.

She quickly brushed off these concerns, saying she actually had 19 years experience because she had attended court and handled court cases since she started out in law.

"I spent time at Legal Aid SA, I did a lot of court appearances. I started as an ordinary assistant who was at court every day."

She currently co-owns a practice with another candidate, Joseph Mhlambi, and the two have decided that if both are lucky enough to be appointed, they would ask one of the three candidate attorneys if they wanted to take over the firm, and it would be wound up by the Law Society of SA. She was also appointed to the Free State Operating Licence Board.

Earlier, Peter Fischer, who is a nephew of anti-apartheid lawyer Bram Fischer, was also interviewed.

He said that after his time as an acting judge, he realised that he was merely a servant of the people, and that he quite liked it and want to continue serving in this way.

After the interviews, the commission will announce who they have chosen to recommend for permanent appointments to President Jacob Zuma.

Read more on:    bloemfontein

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