For Magistrate Colleen Collis, there is a familiar face on the Judicial Service Commission: Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema.
Collis had, while presiding in the Equality Court, found the then ANC Youth League President guilty of hate speech and harassment for remarks made about the complainant in President Jacob Zuma’s 2006 rape trial. Then known as “Khwesi” Zuma’s accuser, Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo, died in 2016.
She ordered Malema to make an unconditional public apology within two weeks and pay an amount of R50 000 to a centre for abused women within one month.
Collis concluded her judgment with the words: “Mr Malema, being a man of vast political influence, be wary of turning into a man that often speaks but never talks.”’
Collis obtained a BProc from the University of Pretoria in 1997. She worked as a state prosecutor from 1998-2000 and as an additional magistrate. Between 2012 and 2017 Collis has acted at the high courts in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Polokwane and Thoyandou.
October 2017 Interview:
October 2017 – Interview synopsis
Magistrate Colleen Collis was one of seven candidates recommended for appointment to the Gauteng High Court after a solid, if unspectacular, interview.
There was a hint of the sinister during her interview when it emerged that she had to recuse herself from a case dealing with the succession dispute over the Venda chieftaincy while acting in the high court in Thohoyandou.
Collis told the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) that even before she was informed she would be hearing the case she had been telephoned by an individual who said he was “aware” that she would be dealing with the matter. He later approached her in the hotel she was staying in and apparently attempted to sway her on the matter.
Collis recused herself from the case: “It felt inappropriate… I then decided that I should not proceed with the matter because it may be perceived that I was bias to a party,” she told the commission.
Gauteng Judge President Dunstan Mlambo told the JSC that they had managed to establish that the individual was a “pest”with an interest in the outcome of the case.
Supreme Court of Appeal President Mandisa Maya that she was “very impressed” by Collis’s “crisp” style of writing judgments which “makes it easy for any reader”.
Maya asked Collis whether she had experienced any challenges which “arose purely from your gender” while acting on the Bench? Collis admitted that the courts were “dominated by males” and that she sometimes got the sense that male lawyers appearing before her “perceive that you might not be capable”
“Its your responsibility to become capable… and not to fall short of the expectations of you as a female judge,” Collis said.
Collis said there was still racism within the legal fraternity and admitted that she did not know an indigenous language, but was keen to “take steps” to address this.