Mokgohloa has dealt with some of the more interesting cases regarding cultural and religious rights that have emerged after the introduction of South Africa’s constitutional order, with its wider sets of freedoms and recognitions.
In the M v J case, a couple married under Islamic law, but not registered in terms of the Marriage Act were heading for Splitsville, with the wife seeking custody of their two children, maintenance and contribution towards legal costs before the finalisation of divorce proceedings. The husband had objected, arguing that no marriage existed since it had already been terminated by his pronouncing talaq (the unilateral pronunciation by the husband that he is divorcing his wife, uttered three times).
She found that the wife “cannot be precluded from obtaining relief in terms of [the Marriage Act] by virtue of her Muslim marriage, irrespective of whether the respondent pronounced a talaq or not.”
The wife was given custody of the two children, and the husband was ordered to pay maintenance of R20 000 per month and to contribute R15 000 to her legal costs.
Mokgohloa obtained a B.Juris in 1987 and an LLB in 1990 from the University of the North West and practised as an attorney for much of her legal career spent outside the Bench. After a short stint as a magistrate, Mokgohloa has spent almost a decade as a judge in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court. Mokgohloa moved to the Limpopo Bench from this year.
Mokgohloa was well respected in the KZN division, receiving 14 nominations from her colleagues for the position of KwaZulu-Natal deputy judge in 2012. Then, former Judge President Chiman Patel lauded her for her tremendous work ethic.
Successfully nominated for appointment, Mokgohloa’s driven, no-nonsense approach to life and work was palpable during her interview before the Judicial Service Commission.
Asked by the ANC’s Thandi Modise to identify her weaknesses and strengths, the KwaZulu-Natal High Court judge responded that “listening” to other people was her strong point, while “getting a bit irritated” when things are not done or people shirked professional responsibility, especially in relation to the efficient running of her court, was her weakness.
The answer received an approving nod from Modise who also revealed that she was of a similar exacting disposition when it came to work.
Mokgohloa’s views on the patriarchy and the “customary practises” rife in Limpopo, including the capturing of “very young, vulnerable women” as ‘candle wives’ was tested during an interview where she impressed.
Modise also pressed Mokgohloa on the sexism and ageism within the legal profession. She said while she was very aware of it, she was “never intimidated by them”.