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Judge Patricia Goliath


Goliath was one of seven female judges featured in the documentary film, Courting Justice, and will be seeking to replace one of her silver-screen “co-stars”, Deputy Judge President Jeanette Traverso in the April interviews.

She is no stranger to the media spotlight, having adjudicated some of the country’s most high-profile and contentious criminal cases. These included the ongoing murder trial of artist Zwelethu Mthethwa, who stood accused of kicking and beating sex worker Nokuphila Kumalo to death in 2013, and the rape and murder case of Bredasdorp teenager Anene Booyen.

The latter trial had especially captured the public’s attention and sympathy, and in sentencing the perpetrator, Johannes Kana, to two concurrent life terms, Goliath said: “You show no remorse for these actions. Instead, you went ahead and tried to hide your complicity in the murderous attack on Anene.”

In 2015 three opposition parties challenged the rules of the national legislature regarding a tabling of a motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma. The application also challenged the decision by the Speaker, Baleka Mbete, not to schedule the vote before the end of that parliamentary term and sought to have the court declare that such votes be conducted by secret ballot.

Writing a unanimous judgment for a full bench, Goliath was mindful of the separation of powers doctrine in dismissing the case and noted that the court “would be unduly prescriptive to the Speaker and the National Assembly as to how and when to schedule its own business” if it found for the opposition parties.

Goliath found that, as the case raised matters of constitutional import and “’indeed adds texture to what it means to be living in a constitutional democracy”, each party should pay its own costs.

The fifty-one year old attended Athlone High School and obtained a BA. LLB at the University of Western Cape and her LLM degree and certificate in Labour Law at the University of Cape Town. She practised as an attorney at her own firm from 1990 to 2005, and was appointed to the Western Cape Bench on January 1 2006.

She has an interest in human rights issues and has published in the South African Legal Journal on topics including the rights of prisoners of war, gun control, and juvenile sentencing and life imprisonment.


Interview Synopsis: 

Goliath was nominated for appointed as deputy judge president of the Western Cape division after a rather tame interview compared to some of her other colleagues.

Responding to a series of questions posed by Supreme Court of Appeal president Lex Mpati that related to the administrative elements of the position, Goliath said:

She would first seek out from offending judges the reasons for overlong reserved judgments by judges, before remedying by restructuring work programmes and providing whatever other support necessary. If the problem persisted, she would eventually report the judges to the office of he chief justice.

Described herself as a “team player who gets in well with people” and capable of ensuring collegiality and unity on the Western Cape Bench.

Said she “cannot recall one instance in when female counsel appeared” before her on a commercial matter, and mourned that this demonstrated there was, “regretfully”, no transformation at the Cape Bar. This, she said, was one of the indicators that the Bar should provide support, assistance and mentoring to “address the paucity of black female advocates specifically”.

Would allocate cases to judges in the division according to various criteria, including matching complex cases with senior judges, considering the nature of a case, and if it were in the oubkic interest, “ensure you should have a diverse Bench”, and ensuring that judges did get exposure to a range of different types of legal matters so that each could gain experience and grow as a judge.