Appointed Deputy Judge President at the Mthatha seat of the high court in the Eastern Cape in 2016, Nhangulela had previously acted in that position for two years. He was appointed to the Eastern Cape Division in 2009. From 1994-2008 he had run his own attorney’s practice, ZM Nhlangulela Inc.
Nhangulela obtained a BA from First Hare, an LLB from the University of Natal and a Certificate in Constitutional Litigation from Unisa.
When Deputy Judge President Zamani Nhlangulela asked the Judicial Service Commission if he be allowed to “blow my own whistle” — as opposed to his horn — it summed up his interview.
Rather than the rich, textured sound of the trumpet, Nhlangulela’s “whistle-blowing” showed him up as a lightweight administrator who appeared to be struggling to deal with the problems in the Mthatha High Court. Someone who became shrilly defensive when questioned about what may be going wrong in his courts.
Nhlangulela said the problems at the court — which had been listed in detail by the previous candidate (see Makaula interview) — were not his alone, but a failure by the “system” and otherwise defended himself with answers characterised by generalisations and cliches. Something which appeared to irritate Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng who asked him to be more specific about the challenges that he faced as head of the Mthatha court and what remedies he had introduced since his elevation to that position six months ago.
More obfuscation, rather than elucidation, followed.
Nhlangulela said the major achievement in Mthatha had been that the judges “act in unison… without one lagging behind, the turnaround has been uniform”. He claimed the addressing of problems related to the court buildings as another achievement before Mogoeng scolded him for claiming something that was a department of public works project instigated by ministerial intervention following a visit by the Office of the Chief Justice.
He received another tongue-lashing when asked about a practise of judges only starting court at 11am. When he responded that he did not know of this — despite it being reported in the media — because he only has “two eyes, not ten” and that “I don’t know, if I am not told”, Mogoeng was not impressed.
The chief justice, raising his voice to match his rising irritation, said he was “very worried” that “you seem to be making light of a very serious thing that affects the public.” Nhlangulela apologised profusely and said judges were now starting court on time.