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Magistrate Bulawawo Prince Manyathi

Capacity: Magistrate
First Appointed: 1996 (district) 2000 (regional)
Gender: Male
Ethnicity: Black
Date of Birth: October 1959
Qualifications: B Juris, LLB (Fort Hare), H.Dip (Company Law) (Witwatesrand)

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Candidate Bio:

Kempton Regional Court Magistrate Bulawayo Prince Manyathi’s career in the administration of justice is as old as South Africa’s democracy.

First appointed as a prosecutor in 1994, it was not long before he joined the bench as a district court magistrate in 1996. After nearly 30 years in the magistracy, he now seeks to be appointed as a permanent judge in the Gauteng High Court.

Before becoming a prosecutor Manyathi was a junior lecturer at the University of Fort Hare from 1991 to 1994. There, he taught private law and the interpretation of statutes – this was the beginning of his legal career.

In 2000, Manyathi was promoted to the rank of regional court magistrate in Kempton Park, Gauteng, presiding on many criminal and civil cases coming from the OR Tambo International Airport, still Africa’s busiest airport hub.

Manyathi has sat as an acting judge in the Gauteng High Court for at least one term of every year, since 2016. Racking up important experience and preparing himself for the job he now wants to make permanent.

One of the most prominent cases that Manyathi presided over as an acting judge is that of the State v Dumisani Mkhwanazi, the cold-blooded murderer of 20-year-old, University of Johannesburg student, Palessa Madiba.

Two years after Madiba went missing, her body was found in a shallow grave, in a house neighbouring her home, in Soweto. The discovery sent shockwaves across the nation, grabbing media attention and driving the outrage of a nation fed up with the abuse and killing of women and children. Dumisani Mkhwanazi stood trial for the murder in the South Gauteng High Court.

After considering the testimonies and the evidence presented during trial, Manyathi convicted Dumisani Mkhwanazi for the murder of Palesa Madiba. Manyathi noted that Mkhwanazi displayed an attitude of “catch me if you can” when he withheld the truth from Madiba’s family and pretended to share their pain, when he was in fact the cause of their suffering.

Manyathi sentenced Mkhwanazi to 20 years for murder, three years for the theft of Madiba’a cellphone, eight years for defeating the ends of justice, 10 years for possession of an unlicensed firearm and two years for possession of ammunition. He ordered that the sentence for the unlawful possession of firearm and ammunition run concurrently with that for the murder – an effective 31 years’ imprisonment. The case was lauded for bringing closure to Madiba’s family but also for sending a strong message in addressing the issue of gender-based violence and femicide in South Africa.

While it cannot be doubted that Manyathi has extensive experience in criminal law, he appears to have relatively limited experience in civil law, including commercial, constitutional and administrative law. This might be an aspect the Judicial Service Commission takes issue with, considering Manyathi is applying for permanent appointment to a court that deals with large commercial disputes, involving complex questions of administrative and procurement law, worth billions of rands.

Furthermore, for a candidate with 30 years of judicial experience, who has acted for an average of 31 weeks over 5 years, Manyathi has relatively few written judgments (only 8 are available publicly). He has no reported judgments at all. This too might be a factor counting against him.

In JC vd Linde & Venter Projects (Pty) Ltd v Bespoke Kitchens & Designs (Pty) Ltd and Another, Manyathi had to grapple with legal procedure in relation to Uniform Rule 30 application. Uniform Rule 30 of the Superior Court provides that when a party to a cause takes an irregular step, the other party or parties may apply to court to set aside the irregular step. In this case the applicant argued that the first respondent had failed to comply with the requirements of Uniform Rule 53 in the main review application, when the first respondent failed to dispatch the record of arbitration proceedings to the registrar of the court and to the other parties in the matter, The first respondent prematurely filed its answering affidavit, which was an irregular step.

In deciding the case, Manyathi noted that “[c]ivil proceedings have rules that guide the procedures to be followed. The parties to civil litigation are expected to follow the rules. Failure to follow the rules will lead to chaos, to the extent that everyone will do as they please and thereby render the rules of court useless.”

As a result, Manyathi confirmed the procedural irregularity as per Uniform Rule 30 Superior Courts, in that the answering affidavit by the first respondent was filed irregularly without first dispatching the record of the arbitration proceedings.

Manyathi was a member of the Judicial Officers Association of SA (JOASA) for the 5 years that he was a district magistrate. He later took membership of the Association of Regional Magistrates of SA (ARMSA), and has remained a member for the last 22 years.

Typical of a classic ‘kasi timer’, Manyathi is also a member of the Sisonke Burial Society.

Manyathi holds a B Juris and LLB degree, both obtained from the University of Fort Hare. He also holds the prestigious Higher Diploma in Company Law, obtained from the University of  the Witwatersrand.

Manyathi comes to the bench after a long career in the law. While his judicial experience might give him a distinct advantage before the Judicial Service Commission, he might face tough questions about why it took so long for him to make himself available for appointment to the high court.

April 2023 interview

Mr Bulawayo Prince Manyathi’s interview for a position on the Gauteng Division of the High Court was unsuccessful.