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Judge Mabaeng Denise Lenyai

Capacity: Judge
Postion: Judge on the High Court of Gauteng; Pretoria
First admitted: attorney (1998) conveyancer (1998) notary (1999)
Gender: Female
Ethnicity: Black
Date of Birth: August 1970
Qualifications: B.Proc (Limpopo) LLB (UKZN)

Key judgments:

Candidate Bio:

When the famous outlet Sally Williams occupied one of their mall-based shops, they left, err… a bit of a mess. The landlord, Liberty Group, cancelled their lease and wanted them out. But Sally Williams ‘held over’ on the property and stayed for an extra month rent-free.

Liberty sued Sally Williams and demanded R257 000 in damages, against which Sally Williams raised several technical defences. Pretoria-based property attorney Mabaeng Denise Lenyai was called upon to adjudicate the dispute while she was acting judge in the Gauteng High Court in 2021.

Lenyai found that Sally Williams was raising the technical defences not to dispute Liberty’s damages claim, but simply to frustrate it.

“I find the respondent’s [Sally Williams] behaviour to be quite peculiar, instead of placing expert evidence of their own before court to dispute the damages determination of Mr Avery, such as to raise a real, genuine or bona fide dispute of fact, they have chosen to be evasive and accusatory towards the applicant.”

Lenyai gave short shrift to Sally William’s defence and ordered that they pay Liberty the R257 000 in damages.

Lenyai has served at least 24 weeks as an acting judge of the High Court, sitting in both Pretoria and Johannesburg.

Her acting stints follow a 25-year career as an attorney, conveyancer and notary public, which began in 1996 when Lenyai joined Van der Merwe Du Toit Attorneys as a candidate attorney.

She later co-established her own law firm, Ramothwala Lenyai and ran the firm as director from 1999 to 2008. The firm landed in some trouble, and were placed under investigation by the Legal Practice Council – with an application for both partners’ suspension. This was later withdrawn.

Upon dissolution of the partnership, Lenyai returned to Van der Merwe Du Toit as a senior attorney in 2008 – going on to join two more Pretoria-based firms before establishing her own property law specialist firm in 2018, under the style of Mabang Lenyai Incorporated.

Lenyai has been an active role-player in the affairs of the attorney’s profession, where she currently holds the position of President of the Law Society of South Africa.

In 2003 she was elected as a member of the Property Law Committee of the Law Society of the Northern Provinces. From 2013, she was the chairperson of the North West branch of the Black Lawyers’ Association, later becoming the BLA’s national head of events and campaigns, secretary general and deputy president. She was a member the Law Society of SA’s Woman’s Task Team and later a council member, where she also served on editorial committee of the De Rebus attorneys’ journal.

Further abroad, she was elected onto the SADC Lawyers’ Association, the Pan African Lawyers’ Union, the BRICS Legal Forum, and as a council member of the International Bar Association.

The 52-year-old Lenyai holds a B.Proc degree from the University of Limpopo and an LLB degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Many of the judgments Lenyai delivered during her acting stints fall within a pattern, delivered just before the three-month deadline set by the Norms and Standards for Judicial Performance, which might be an issue the JSC will address.

However, there’s no doubt that Lenyai is an activist at heart, not least for her contribution to the legal profession.

April 2023 interview

Ms Mabaeng Morongwe Denise Lenyai’s interview was successful. The JSC has recommended her for appointment to the Gauteng Division of the High Court