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Judge Tebogo Jennifer Djaje

Capacity: Judge
First appointed as judge: 2017 North West
October 2022 North West Deputy Judge President
Gender: Female
Ethnicity: African
Date of Birth: February 1974
Qualifications: B Proc., LLB, (NWU)

Key judgments:

Candidate Bio:

Judge Tebogo Djaje is currently a judge of the North West High Court, Mafikeng.

Born in Tlhabane, Rustenburg, on the platinum belt, Djaje completed her matric and went to North West University’s Mafikeng campus, where she graduated with a B.Proc in 1996, and an LLB degree in 2000.

Djaje’s legal career started when she joined Setshedi Makgale Attorneys as an articled clerk (candidate attorney) in 1996, and was retained as a professional assistant (associate attorney) in 1998.

She left the firm in 2000 and joined the North-West University’s Mafikeng Law Clinic as the Supervising Attorney until 2001.

In October 2001 Djaje was appointed as a district court magistrate in Klerksdorp, a position she remained in for the next 3 years. In 2004, she was appointed as a regional court magistrate in Mmabatho, where she would stay for the next 13 years until her permanent appointment as a judge in 2017.

Djaje was a magistrate for a total number of 16 years, which speaks to her level of experience as a judicial officer.

Although only permanently appointed as a judge in 2017, Djaje had acted as a judge for approximately 9 terms between 2013 and 2017.

During both her acting stints and even when she was appointed permanently as a judge, Djaje has penned several judgments of significant public important and the development of the law.

In Peermont v Chairperson: North West Gambling Review Tribunal, a complex gambling law case with 6 legal teams and 13 advocates, Djaje was confronted with judicial review of a licensing decision by the provincial gambling board.  Gaming giant Peermont, which runs the Mmabatho Palms Casino and Klerksdorp’s Rio Palms, challenged the board’s decision to grant bingo machine licences to smaller operators in the surrounding towns, thereby undercutting its client base and profits.

The days of large bingo halls where a bingo ball was drawn manually, and players had to shout ‘bingo!’ are long gone. It is now a widely common practice for bingo licence holders to use electronic betting machines, which are strikingly similar to machines used in full-service casinos.

Peermont argued that the board’s licensing process was unfair, and the ultimate licensing decisions were unlawful as they failed to consider the true nature of electronic bingo terminals, which effectively operate like Peermont’s machines in the large casinos.

Peermont was joined on its side by Galaxy Bingo (which had unsuccessfully applied for bingo licences) versus smaller operators like Jonoforce, Goldrush Sports Betting and Pioneer.

After carefully considering the complex factual matrix and the legal framework, Djaje dismissed Peermont and Galaxy Bingo’s applications. She found that there were no grounds tto say that the board’s process was unfair. She also found that the board was well aware of the electronic bingo machines when granting bingo licenses as the statutory and policy framework accommodated these machines.

In Mafate v Bapo Ba Mogale Traditional Council, Djaje set aside the decision of a traditional council to suspend some of its members without due and fair procedure. She held that traditional councils are organs of state and thus governed by the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA).

Djaje found that the council did not have internal procedural mechanisms — as required by PAJA and the North-West Traditional Leadership and Governance Act –– and that the suspensions were not authorised by legislation. She ultimately found the suspensions were irrational, procedurally unfair and fell to be set aside on judicial review. Ultimately, she ordered that all the members be reinstated.

In S v M 2016 (2) SACR 651 (NWM), a man (Mr M) convicted of rape and sentenced to life imprisonment sought to appeal against both the conviction and sentence based on the evidence presented against him at trial. Mr M argued that the lower court misdirected itself in finding that the DNA chain of evidence was properly followed to conclude that indeed the was guilty as charged.

In this case, Djaje had to pronounce on the admissibility of DNA evidence based on how it was handled prior to the trial.  She noted that “[t]he importance of proving the chain of evidence is to indicate the absence of alteration or substitution of the exhibits. If no admissions are made by the defence the state bears the onus to prove the chain of evidence. The state must establish the name of each person who handled the evidence, the date on which it was handled and the duration. Failure by the state to establish the chain of evidence affects the integrity of such evidence and thus rendering it inadmissible.”

As a result, Djaje found that there were material irregularities in the chain of custody of exhibits where the DNA samples were obtained. The effect of these irregularities was that the trial was not in accordance with justice and the conviction could not be confirmed. Therefore, the appeal against the conviction and sentence had to succeed.

Outside judicial office Djaje has been an active member of at least five legal organizations in the profession, where she has held significant leadership positions.

Between 1997 and 2000 she was the provincial secretary of the Black Lawyers Association (North-West).

As district magistrate, she was the North West chairperson of the Judicial Officers Association of South Africa (2003 – 2004).

Between 2007 and 2008 she was provincial chairperson of the South African Lawyers Association (SAWLA).

When she became a regional magistrate, she was elected as provincial chairperson of Association of Regional Magistrates of South Africa, North-West (2006 – 2010).

She currently serves as North West provincial coordinator of the SAA Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges – a position she was elected to in 2021.

Djaje acted as Deputy Judge President of the North West High Court in the second term of 2019, and also chairs its library committee.

She commands the respect of her fellow judges, who all signed a letter recommending that she be made permanent in position, describing her as:

“[A] dedicated and knowledgeable colleague…[who] possesses immense qualities of an astute leader. These include [a] keen sense of integrity and value, trustworthiness and respect…a keen mind, professionalism, and a great sense of humour that will make her an exceptional Deputy Judge President.”

If appointed, Djaje would bring a wealth of two decades of judicial experience, and considerable leadership experience gained in her extra-judicial roles.

For a relatively small division, the North West High Court has been rocked by deep intra-personal tensions between judges in the past. A new, stable leadership with a steady hand and a ‘great sense of humour’ would go a great way in banishing those tensions.

October 2022 Interview

October 2022 JSC interview of Judge Jeniffer Tebogo Djaje for the position of Deputy Judge President of the North West Division of the High Court. Judge Djaje‘s application was successful

April 2017 interview

Interview Synopsis

Djaje said her experience as a magistrate made it easier for her to act in the high court, but she did need to get accustomed to civil litigation. She identified judgment writing as challenge, which was “made easier” by courses she attended on judgment-writing and attending the training programme for aspirant judges.

Asked by CP Fourie, one of two representatives for the attorneys’ profession, whether she was comfortable dealing with civil matters, Djaje said that after having adjudicated approximately 15 cases of that kind, she was.

Djaje said expanding the pool of prospective judges to include female magistrates would assist in gender transformation, as would training programmes.