Mandisa Maya lays out strong case for why she should be chief justice, says expert

03 February 2022 - 09:59
By Nomahlubi Sonjica
President of the Supreme Court of Appeal Mandisa Maya is vying for the position of chief justice.
Image: Gallo Images President of the Supreme Court of Appeal Mandisa Maya is vying for the position of chief justice.

Despite not having acted as a Constitutional Court judge in the past decade, Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) president Mandisa Maya gave an impression that she would do well as chief justice.

This is the observation of Mbekezeli Benjamin, research and advocacy officer at Judges Matter, on Maya’s interview with the Judicial Service Commission on Wednesday.

Maya is one of four judges shortlisted for the position of chief justice at the apex court.

“She performed well. She was clear in her vision. She seemed to have done thorough preparation,” Benjamin said.

He said Maya gave practical examples of what she would do to execute her vision.

“She said she will bring synergy, unity and cohesion in the judiciary. She spoke about it at an institutional perspective. Her narrative was compelling. She hasn’t acted in the Constitutional Court in 10 years, but she went into great detail about what she would do if appointed chief justice,” Benjamin said.

He said it was a bit disappointing that Maya was repeatedly asked to respond to gender-related issues because she is a female candidate.

“Yes, she’s the only female candidate and you would expect that gender issues would somehow feature. But it was disappointing that it had to be raised in a crude and inappropriate manner. It was good of her to push back a little and say, ‘Don’t look at me as a woman.’ She said, ‘Look at me for my credentials. I have a proven track record.'

“She said, ‘I’m a good judge who’s also a woman’," Benjamin said, adding that Maya had put a strong case for her to be considered for the position.

“She was upfront about why she should be chief justice. She put in the work. The way she spoke told me she had prepared. She convinced even those who might have had doubts about her.”

He commended Maya for being firm in her response to a question on how she would be able to cope in the apex court as an outsider.

“She was asked if she, as an outsider, would not struggle to get people to support her and she said she’d worked with seven of the justices in the Constitutional Court. She gave assurance that those people would support her.”

SCA deputy president Mlungisi Petse asked Maya at the end of her interview if she were to be appointed chief justice would she replicate the “many positives” she had achieved at the appeal court.

Maya said: “I have no doubt that that’s eminently possible, with the support of my colleagues of course who I know also have the best interest of our institution at heart.”

Petse said Maya, who boldly told that JSC that she was firm, had put the attribute to good use at the SCA several times and that whenever there were problems she was courageous enough to nip them in the bud.

Maya said being firm was characteristic of women from her clan name Rhadebe.

“It is a characteristic of my clan, especially the women of that clan OoRhadebe. Intombi zakwa Rhadebe ziyaziwa [Women from the Rhadebe clan are well known for being firm],” Maya said with a chuckle.

High court judge president Dunstan Mlambo, the third candidate to be interviewed, will get his chance on Thursday.

LISTEN | Mandisa Maya on matters that must be addressed in the judiciary