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Judge Maitu Tsungai Mathe Phahane

Capacity: Judge
First admitted as advocate: 2012
Appointed as judge: Labour Court, 2021
Gender: Female
Ethnicity: Black
Date of Birth: 22 April 1973

Key judgments:

Candidate Bio:

Pretoria Advocate Maitu Phehane can easily be described as an ‘all-rounder’ who has dealt with labour issues from all different aspects: as an attorney, a government official in the Labour Department, a labour executive in a multinational corporation, a labour consultant, and currently a labour law advocate at the Bar. It is precisely for this reason that some see her as a frontrunner among the five candidates vying for elevation to the position of a judge of the Labour Court.

Born in Zimbabwe to South African parents, Phehane started her legal career as a candidate attorney before joining the National Department of Labour as a legal officer. She returned to legal practice as an attorney but quickly returned to government as an assistant manager in labour relations, rising through the ranks to finally become Acting Executive Manager for Human Resources Management. She spent some time as employee relations manager and later executive assistant to the CEO of major oil firm BP Southern Africa before she was recruited to SA Post Office as senior manager for employee relations. Phehane held a stint as a management consultant at Nkonki Incorporated before finally joining the Pretoria Bar as a pupil and later an advocate, specialising in labour law and commercial law. Phehane hold a BA LLB degrees from the University of Cape Town, a diploma in legislative drafting from Vista University (Pretoria), a postgraduate diploma in Labour Law (cum laude) from the Graduate Institute of Management and Technology, and a certificate in advanced company law from Wits University.

April 2021 Interview:

April 2021 Interview Synopsis:

Taking place in the ‘grave yard shift’ late on Friday evening, Advocate Maitu Phehane’s interview started with an interesting declaration by newly-appointed Commissioner Doris Tshepe stating that she will not pose any questions as the candidate was nominated by Tshepe’s husband. This point was later returned to by Commissioner Julius Malema, who seemed to take umbrage to what he calls “husband and wives working with candidates to get them appointed on the Bench”.

Overall, Phehane was well-received by the JSC, with many commissioners commending the breadth of her experience in the labour and employee-relations field, and for her resilience as a successful black woman advocate in commercial practice. A sticking point was Phehane’s relatively short stints at a number of her positions in her career, with NEDLAC representative Sibusiso Lukhele asking whether this doesn’t show her as ‘disloyal’ to her employers but which Phehane explained as only showing her as someone who is “willing to get things done” regardless of the context.

Advocate Phehane was the successful candidate among five other vying for a single vacancy on the Labour Court.