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Judge Nontuthuzelo Faith Mlaba

Capacity: Judge
Appointed: January 2023 (Durban)
Gender: Female
Ethnicity: Black
Date of Birth: November 1971
Qualifications: BA Law (NUL) LLB (UKZN)

Key Judgements:

Candidate Bio:

Judge Nontuthuzelo Faith Mlaba was appointed a judge of the KwaZulu-Natal High Court, (Durban and Pietermaritzburg) in January 2023, following a 19-year career as an attorney.

Born in the sprawling township of Umlazi in the south of Durban, Mlaba read for a Bachelor of Arts (Law) at the National University of Lesotho on a World University Services scholarship. Upon graduating in 1994, Mlaba worked as a Legal Collections Advisor at the Ithala Development Finance Corporation, where she dealt extensively with banking law.

While at Ithala, she studied for her LLB degree part-time at the then University of Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) in Durban, graduating in 2001.

From 2001 to 2002, she worked as a candidate attorney at Durban law firm De Villiers, Evans & Petit Inc. Upon her admission as an attorney, Mlaba moved to Ngidi Gcolotela-Peter Inc’s commercial litigation department, dealing with labour law, personal injury, motor collisions, and magistrates and high court litigation.

Alongside another black woman attorney, Mlaba would later establish her own firm, Mngoma-Mlaba & Khumalo Inc, which she ran as director from 2004 ­– 2009. During this period, she was admitted as a conveyancer.

Mlaba resigned from her law firm to undertake training as a labour commissioner at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Abitration.

In 2010, Mlaba established her own firm, NF Mlaba Attorneys, which specialised in labour law, commercial litigation and conveyancing. While at the firm from 2010 – 2018, she completed legislative compliance for clients, and sat on several government regulatory tribunals, including work chairing disciplinary hearings and arbitrations.  In 2018 she closed the firm down to become an independent consultant and part-time commissioner at the CCMA.

From 2021, Mlaba held several stints as an acting judge in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court, Durban and Pietermaritzburg.

Mlaba handed down judgment in State v Thembelani Mtengwana, where a 34-year-old man kidnapped and gruesomely murdered a 16-month-old baby whose mother had recently ended a romantic relationship with the man.  Mlaba had to grapple with the evidence of a single, child witness (the 9 year-old brother of the baby), which the law of evidence requires to be treated with caution.

Mlaba found the child was a competent witness, and his evidence was consistent and compelling. Mlaba found the man guilty of kidnapping and murder, and sentenced him to ten years imprisonment for the kidnapping and life imprisonment for the murder. In handing down sentence, Mlaba said:

“[The baby] was only 16 months old when killed him…depriving him his right to life. There was absolutely no dignity in taking his life at such a tender age. He never experienced life, you denied him that opportunity.
Your conduct and this offence has not only negatively impacted the lives of the deceased’s family, but it has affected your own mother. The legislature had offenders such as you in mind when it enacted the minimum sentences legislation.”

October 2022 interview

October 2022 interview synopsis

A youthful Nontuthuzelo Mlaba came before the Judicial Service Commission at the tail-end of a grueling (and maybe grilling?) day of interviews. Her chief inquisitor, Judge Mjabuliseni Madondo had been on the end of that grilling earlier in the day, for his fourth unsuccessful run for judge president of the KZN High Court. His energy levels were low, but he put Mlaba through her paces. Maadondo put to Mlaba a concern raised by the Law Society of South Africa that, although Mlaba has extensive quasi-judicial experience at tribunals, she had “very little” court experience to be a judge. “I have court experience, as I used to run my own matters and occasionally brief counsel,” Mlaba replied.

Noting Mlaba’s extensive experience in labour law, Professor Clement Marumoagae asked Mlaba’s view about of the fairned of the “imbalances” in CCMA proceedings where employees are only allowed a trade union representative or other employee, but the employer allowed a lawyer.

In a tense moment before Mlaba could answer, Labour Court Judge President Basheer Waglay quickly objected, saying that this was an unfair question that Mlaba should not answer. Deputy Chief Justice Mandisa Maya reluctantly allowed the question but when the Professor sought a follow-up, a visibly upset Judge Waglay shot back, ”she’s applying for the High Court, you will ask her labour-related questions when she comes to interview for the Labour Court!.” Maya intervened to calm the tensions, allowing Mlaba a final word before ending the interview.