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Judge Nobahle Mangcu-Lockwood

Capacity: Judge
First Appointed: July 2021
First admitted as advocate: 2006
Gender: Female
Ethnicity: Black
Date of Birth: 20 February 1977

Key judgments:

  • Executive Council of the Western Cape Province and Others v Kannaland Local Municipality and Others (229/2021) [2021] ZAWCHC 51 (19 March 2021)
  • Technical Systems (Pty) Ltd and Another v RTS Industries and Others (16075/19) [2020] ZAWCHC 69 (9 March 2020)
  • Wensley Overseas Limited v Maykent (Pty) Ltd and Others (4542/2014) [2019] ZAWCHC 178 (6 November 2019)
  • Beaukes v S (CC66/2019) [2021] ZAWCHC 33 (25 February 2021)


Candidate Bio:

Advocate Nobahle Mangcu-Lockwood has relatively little experience as an acting judge (one term in 2019 and another in 2021) — which may work against her — but her judgments are clearly written and well-reasoned.

In the 2021 matter of Executive Council of the Western Cape Province Council & Others v Kannaland Local Municipality & Others, Mangcu-Lockwood had to decide a dispute over the recovery plan imposed by the Western Cape provincial government on the Kannaland Municipality (on the latter’s invitation, after it landed in financier distress and was unable to provide basic municipal services to municipalities.

The municipal council had sought the intervention in terms of section 139(5) of the Constitution. The provincial executive imposed a comprehensive recovery plan on the municipality, which was implemented by an administrator.

The provincial government also sought to conclude a contract for the provision of energy, water services and infrastructure which the applicants contended violated municipal procurement standards and was unaffordable.

The Western Cape government also attempted to establish an organizational structure which the municipality argued was wasteful, unnecessary and unaffordable.

The municipality then sought an interim interdict against the provincial government, which opposed the application and launched a collateral challenge, contending that the intervention had been void ab initio (invalid from the outset) and was a nullity.

Mangcu–Lockwood considered the requirements for an interim interdict.

In respect of the requirement of a prima facie right, she found that it was common cause that the requirements for a mandatory intervention in terms of section 139(5) of the Constitution had been present.

The municipality had admitted it was unable to meet its obligations and financial commitments, and it was at its insistence that the mandatory form of intervention had been undertaken.

“The facts show that, after the Provincial Executive started with a less intrusive form of intervention, the Municipality requested to be placed under ‘full administration’. This belies the argument that the Provincial Executive could have undertaken a less drastic form of intervention. It was the Municipality that insisted to be placed under ‘full administration’. In any event, whether the Provincial Executive could have undertaken a less drastic form of intervention does not detract from the fact that the jurisdictional requirements for the mandatory intervention were present at the start of the intervention,” Mangcu—Lockwood found.

Furthermore, the conditions for a mandatory intervention continued to exist.

Mangcu–Lockwood rejected the respondents’ collateral challenge, finding that upholding it would have the effect “of disrupting what the parties have agreed are positive strides made since the intervention, and create instability in the Municipality.”

She emphasised that “ultimately, it is the citizens that are affected by the conduct of the organ of states.”

Regarding the contract, Mangcu–Lockwood found that the respondents had “not seriously disputed” that the project would have “significant and long-term effects on the Municipality’s financial position”, and the manner in which it provides basic services over the next three decades.”

The Municipality had “committed itself to a path of unlawfulness by seeking to accept an unsolicited bid of this magnitude, whilst under mandatory intervention”, and had “ignored a whole range of legal requirements and considerations”.

Mangcu–Lockwood found that the province’s decisions, if followed through would undermine the municipality’s financial recovery and was inconsistent with the plan.

“If unabated, and on an urgent basis, the respondents’ conduct will have the effect of undoing the good work that has been achieved through the intervention.” The interim interdict was granted, and the respondents’ collateral challenge was dismissed.

Mangcu-Lockwood has a BA (1997) and an LLB (2000) from the University of Cape Town. She served articles and worked as an attorney with Cheadle, Thompson and Haysom from 2000-2002, after which she joined the Cape Bar. She is also a member of the Bar of England and Wales.

April 2021 Interview:

April 2021 Interview Synopses

Advocate Nobahle Mangcu-Lockwood enthusiastically grasped the nettle that had stung previous candidates during interviews for the high court in Cape Town: the thinly veiled question relating to Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe continuing in his position after being found guilty of gross misconduct by a conduct tribunal of the Judicial Service Commission — and what this meant for the integrity and independence of the judiciary?

The question was posed to all candidates by Democratic Alliance MP Glynnis Breytenbach and the squirming and shiftlessness by some aspirant judges gave away as much about their alleged allegiance to Hlophe over their conscience, as some of their answers.

All the candidates before Mangcu-Lockwood had treated the question as a personal and political one. Mangcu-Lockwood, however, treated it as a legal conundrum to be solved.

She enquired as to where in the disciplinary process the matter was, what rights the guilty person had exercised until then and postulated various scenarios, including that if it had reached the point of an impeachment vote in parliament then it was a matter for that arm of the state to resolve.

This caused the usually taciturn Breytenbach to observe that this was the best answer of all the candidates so far.

Asked about gender transformation in the legal fraternity and on the Bench, Mangcu-Lockwood repeated the decades-long experiences of black women at the Bar. She talked of struggling to receive briefs from private companies and the state as an advocate and described the pace of transformation in the Western Cape as “far too slow”.

She said of acting stints in the motion court: “I must have seen 100 matters and I didn’t see a single black person [appear before her].”

Of the prevailing misogyny in the legal fraternity, Mangcu-Lockwood also recounted how, in one instance while acting on the Bench, she had called a pre-trial meeting and when she approached the relevant lawyers — fully robed — in the corridors, they had mistaken her for the registrar.

Supreme Court of Appeal president Mandisa Maya observed that Mangcu-Lockwood’s experiences at the Bar mirrored her own over three decades previously and asked whether the candidate was “not tired” of this question being asked so often with so little change being effected.

Mangcu-Lockwood confirmed that it was “exhausting” but said she was a firm believer that women had “to contribute to our own solutions”.

When Maya asked her why she had not taken silk, Mangcu-Lockwood said: “Once I acted I didn’t want it. I wanted to come to the Bench. I knew that it was my calling…I had moved on and something in me had shifted. I didn’t need to be a silk to go to the Bench.”

On her judicial philosophy, the candidate said it was to apply the Constitution to her adjudicating but to also apply the common law and customary law in the spirit of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

The stand-out candidate in this round of interviews, the effervescent and obviously smart Mangcu-Lockwood was appointed.