Seasoned advocate vying for judge position vows to give back to community should he get the job

Advocate Denzil Potgieter SC
Advocate Denzil Potgieter SC
PHOTO: Barbara Maregele/GroundUp
  • There are two vacant positions in the Eastern Cape High Court Division. 
  • Experienced candidates vowed to deliver should they be appointed.
  • One candidate had been invited to be part of the state capture commission's legal team. 

A seasoned senior counsel vying for the position of judge says he is willing to return to his roots and give back to his community should he be appointed.

Advocate Denzil Potgieter SC told the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) that although he was born in the Eastern Cape, he cut his teeth in law in the Western Cape.

Potgieter was interviewed for two vacant positions in the Eastern Cape High Court Division on Wednesday.

The soft-spoken veteran lawyer claimed he was persuaded by the Eastern Cape Division of the High Court Judge President, Selby Mbenenge, to avail himself.

Potgieter said he had also acted in the Labour Court under now-Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, who was the judge president at the time.

Zondo said he had asked Potgieter to join the state capture commission's legal team, but certain conditions didn't allow him to do so.

Legal qualifications

Potgieter holds a BA Law degree, BA Honours in Philosophy, LLB, LLM in Constitutional and International Trade Law and Diploma in International Trade Law.

His first three degrees were attained at the University of the Western Cape.

"I opened my chambers in June 1985. It doesn't feel like it was a long time. I still have the energy. During all these years in practice, I was exposed to cases from various branches of law. I was an attorney between 1980 and 1985. I did my articles in Cape Town.

"I was very busy in litigation. I cut my teeth in the magistrate's court, running around and learning how to cross-examine. Early in 1985, I joined the Bar. I also did many cases related to the (1985) state of emergency."

Potgieter had been practising as a Senior Council since 1986.

He also acted as a judge in the high court.

READ | 'I've dedicated myself to my hometown of Gqeberha', Eastern Cape candidate tells JSC

"I can deal with the physical and mental demands of this role. I believe that I will deal with the demands of this job. You must have methodology because it is a demanding job because of the time you must invest.

"Having the privilege of working with senior judges, I was able to work with the methodology of dealing with a judge's workload. I have made a point that once a matter I have heard is ready to be decided, I will deliver a judgment within two weeks.

He continued: 

I have acted (in the High Court) for about four-plus terms. I have spent time acting. I have made myself available to act. I have benefitted from doing work in many courts in the country. I must say that the Eastern Cape division is right up there in terms of smooth running, good logistics, and necessary support for judges.

"It is a well-run division. I was happy to work there. It is my home town. I can't identify any negatives there. I have always been meticulous about empowerment. I have always been keen to get involved in the Eastern Cape courts."

Another applicant vying for the position is Vuyokazi Nomcembu.

Judge president of the Mpumalanga High Court Division, Francis Legodi declared that he once recommended her for the position of president of the regional court.

"I had the opportunity to interview her before. I prepared a memo for the minister for her appointment. If I happen to vote for her, I need to disclose that," Legodi said.

Nomcembu holds a BA Law degree and LLB, both from the University of the Western Cape.

She disclosed that, in 1991, she was a member of a political party.

"I was a member of that political party for a year in 1991 after passing my matric. I was actively involved and was a card-carrying member. My involvement ended that year. I didn't renew my annual membership," said Nomcembu.

ALSO READ | JSC interviews: Candidate says appointment should be based on judicial contribution, not race or gender

Nomcembu worked as a prosecutor and was later appointed as a district magistrate for five years.

She was later promoted to the regional court magistrate, which she held for five years.

"I did both civil, criminal, and family law. As a magistrate, I have been doing civil law exclusively for two years. I acted as a High Court judge for 32 weeks. About 80% to 90% of my work was taken by civil work at the High Court."

She said: 

Motion courts in the High [Court] are intense. During my tenure as an acting judge, I wrote about 38 judgments. I have only granted two of my judgments leave to appeal.

"Sitting in a full Bench in an appeal court is different to what I am used to, coming from a lower court. You are able to engage with colleagues," said Nomcembu.

Mbenenge told Nomcembu that two senior judges, including the deputy judge president in his constituency in Gqeberha, had sung her praises.

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