Three new members of the JSC panel
In March 2017 President Zuma appointed three new members of the JSC (Judicial Service Commission). These members replaced the previous members namely, Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza SC, Advocate Ismael Semenya SC and Ms Andiswa Ndoni. The new members are Advocate Thandi Norman SC, Advocate Thabani Masuku SC, and Mr Sifiso Msomi. There are four members of the Judicial Service Commission who are known by the nickname ‘The President’s Men’ as they are appointed to the Commission by the President.
Here is a brief introduction to these new JSC members;
Thabani Masuku did his LLB degree at UCT from 1993 to 1997. He clerked at the Constitutional Court for Justice Richard Goldstone from Jan 1998 to August 1999. In 1999 he spent a year at IDASA’s Institute for Policy and Democracy. He did a Masters of Laws at Vrije Universiteit in 2001.
He was admitted in 1999, and has been practising since 2003 at the Cape Bar. His areas of practice are administrative law, constitutional litigation, water and environmental litigation, fisheries, customs, tax law, commercial litigation, international human rights law, international business law, and labour law.
He is the former head of Advocates for Transformation, and is well known for being outspoken about the lack of transformation in the legal profession.
He has been quoted as saying;
“The government, as the biggest litigator, has not made it a priority to build, through the briefing system, a group of black people who participate on an equal footing with their white counterparts.”
“As an Advocate, you have to pay your office rentals and bar fees and being constantly under the threat of being evicted from chambers is demeaning for counsel.”
“All those things can present a barrier for black practitioners who don’t have a constant flow of work. The late payment of fees by the state attorney presents a barrier to transformation.”
He was the evidence leader in the Phiyega board of inquiry appointed as a result of recommendations by the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, and was part of the “Eminent Persons Panel” [Williams and Another v University of the Western Cape and Others (24537/2015)  ZAWCHC 198 (15 November 2016)] (“the Panel”) which investigated the structural issues giving rise to what was manifestly a crisis at the University. As well as Adv Thabani Masuku, a senior member of the Cape Bar, the panel comprised Emeritus Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane (the retired Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town), and Dr Vincent Mphai, a prominent and respected director of companies.
In an article called Tough on crime and strong on human rights: The challenge for us all, Richard Calland and Thabani Masuku wrote as follows;
“Along the way of this inevitably Sisyphusian challenge, we must examine the detail of our criminal justice systems, from the institutional construct and culture, to the procedures that govern both pre-trial and trial crime control. To do so thoroughly, both right and left must let go of some of their most deep-seated orthodoxies. The right must learn that ‘good’ constitutions do not create ‘bad’ societies (we are here using their own bleak, black and white pseudo-moralistic language); that only weak, lazy and cowardly governments blame their own constitutions for their failings as has been the case in South Africa recently and that humane criminal justice procedures designed to protect the weak and vulnerable do not threaten effective, well-resourced and well-trained law enforcement agencies.”
The second new appointee is Advocate Thandi Norman who comes from Tarkastad in the Eastern Cape. She was sent to a boarding school, Emgwali Secondary School, at the age of 13 and thereafter, attended St Matthew’s High School. With no money for tuition at the University of Transkei, she says, “I was able to persuade the dean and other university authorities to give me six months to prove myself, however, and I was allowed to enroll.”
She received her B Luris from the University of Transkei in 1988 and an LLB in 1992. She became an Advocate at the Johannesburg Society of Advocates in 1992 and was admitted to the Bisho Bar in January 1997. She took Silk in June 2011. She has also been a part-time lecturer at University of Fort Hare.
During her pupillage in 1996 she was one of only two black African women in her pupillage group. She says of that time that; “while there were challenges, there were also opportunities. My written work was scrutinised with care, and I found that the attention I received was very encouraging.”
“As the only African woman, surrounded by white male colleagues, there were challenges, of course. It was difficult for me to fit within an established system, and it was difficult for the system to accommodate me comfortably. There were cultural issues. Some of them were very simple – such as laughing out loud, which is a common African trait – and others were more complicated. Most of my colleagues believed that it was important to have African representation at the bar, and they were prepared to mentor me. I think this reflects the attitude of the profession across all of South Africa. As a consequence, there is an increasing number of African students who are thinking about being called to the bar after university.”
At the Bisho Bar she remained the only female black advocate for a period. It was noted in a Bar News article;
“Though she does not like to ‘make a thing of it’ it cannot be ignored that Thandi is the first black female to take silk in KwaZulu-Natal. When asked what advice she could impart to young advocates starting out in the profession she said ‘You have to be disciplined about your work and take it and yourself seriously. Once you have established a reputation for being reliable and thorough, the work will come.’”
Mr Sifiso Msomi has received a B.Proc, LLB and LLM from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He is currently a Partner in Shepstone and Wiley Attorneys and specialises in property, including sectional title transactions, notarial bonds, leases, servitudes and general conveyancing. He is also a Deputy Chairman of the Black Lawyers Association (BLA). In September 2012, he was appointed a member of the South African Planning Institute and the KwaZulu-Natal Planning and Development Appeals Tribunal.
Speaking at Durban Attorney and former Chairman of BLA Edward Ngubane’s funeral in May 2012, he said of Ngubane: “He was a principled man; he was fully committed to the BLA. He was a role model to young black practitioners, and very easy to talk to.”
Msomi has said that the circumstances faced by black lawyers were heartbreaking:
“It is a tragedy that after 18 years of freedom, in a country where there are approximately 49-million people and about 23,000 lawyers, there are black attorneys who are still struggling to make ends meet. It is a tragedy that if all our white commercial lawyers colleagues were to leave our country in unison, our economy could be in crises because there are no experienced black commercial lawyers.”
“It is a tragedy that amongst us, there’s no black lawyer who could claim that he worked on a big merger and acquisition worth billions of rands. It’s a tragedy that we have one of the biggest ports in South Africa, but there are no black law firms in this town who do shipping law …”
Msomi has vowed that they will continue to lobby both the public and private sectors to give work to black lawyers.
“If we do not empower our black lawyers, our detractors will continue to question the calibre of black judges.”
These new commissioners join the fourth of the commissioners appointed by the President, Advocate Nkosi-Thomas, who retains her place on the commission.