Current position: Advocate SC
Date appointed: Conferred silk in 2018
When boarders at Cape Town’s Wynberg Girls High School alleged that the superintendent at its Waterloo House had made racially offensive comments towards black learners and had emotionally and sexually abused them, it caused a stir in the city’s more rarified suburbs in 2016.
The school enlisted Davis to investigate the matter. She cleared the superintendent of sexual assault or harassment‚ emotional abuse‚ theft‚ hate speech‚ racial discrimination or unlawful breaches of confidentiality or privacy.
But Davis did find that the learners had legitimate complaints about inconsistent treatment based on race and the lack of a uniform set of rules and disciplinary code.
She recommended that the superintendent — who parted ways with the school soon after the report was released — be replaced by someone fluent in Xhosa, a revision of the disciplinary code and that outside professionals be brought in to resolve issues between hostel learners and staff.
She has acted at the Western Cape bench from October 2012 to September 2013 and from October 2017 to September 2019.
In the 2018 high court matter of Kruse v S, Davis (with Judge Thandazwa Ndita concurring) held that the appellant, who had been convicted of murder, had not been afforded a fair trial and set aside the lower court’s conviction and sentence.
At the beginning of his trial in the magistrates’ court the accused had indicated that he was deaf and that he could not understand the sign language interpreter effectively. The magistrate directed that communication with the accused take place in writing — which Davis found was not in the best interests of justice.
Davis held that the appeal “highlights the need for judicial sensitivity and vigilance in criminal proceedings involving an accused with impaired hearing and speech, as well as the duty of judicial officers to treat all persons who come before court with due respect for their dignity.”
Davis found that: “The procedure adopted by the magistrate was not sufficient to ensure that the accused was able to participate effectively in his trial. It is clear from the record that the accused struggled to hear and to follow the proceedings. During the presentation of the State’s case he was effectively excluded for large portions of the trial since as he was not given a contemporaneous interpretation of the dialogue.”
She also censured the presiding magistrate for forming a sceptical view of the accused’s disability: “The magistrate’s remarks display an appalling insensitivity and prejudice regarding the accused’s disability. She violated his dignity with her callous laughter and open incredulity. She failed to accord him the respect which every person who appears in a South African court is entitled to receive from a judicial officer. Her conduct demonstrates the need for ongoing social awareness and sensitivity training to alert all judicial officers to the challenges facing people with disabilities when they appear in our courts.”
Fifty-four year-old Davis holds a BA (1985) and LLB (Magna cum laude, 1987) from the University of Cape Town. She worked as an attorney before joining the Bar in 1994 and was took silk in March 2018.
Davis has experience in arbitration and has been a member of the General Commercial Panel of Arbitrators at the Arbitration Foundation of South Africa from 2006 until the present and a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (United Kingdom) from 2008 to 2017. She was also an accredited mediator at the Africa Centre for Dispute Settlement (2010 – 2011) and a member of the Law Society of England and Wales from 2009 onwards.
October 2019 Interview:
October 2019 Interview Synopsis:
The issue of racism at the Cape Bar and Bench is a perennial issue, and Judge President Hlophe opened the batting in the JSC interview of Adv Davis with a question around racism in the profession and at the Cape Bar. Davis was firmly in the affirmative, and referred to the ongoing issue of skewed briefing patterns creating pockets of experience at the bar, with women and black women not being as extensively briefed.
Mr Sigogo, the BLA representative asked Davis about an investigation she ran into allegations that the superintendent at a school’s boarding house had made racially offensive comments towards black learners and had emotionally and sexually abused them. He found it odd that she had cleared the superintendent of the charges, and yet found that changes should be made.
Davis has indeed cleared the superintendent of sexual assault or harassment‚ emotional abuse‚ theft‚ hate speech‚ racial discrimination or unlawful breaches of confidentiality or privacy. She explained to the commission that the superintendant “just didn’t have a clue about sensitivity” and she was a person “who had no ill will but she had no sensitivity”.
However she did find that the learners had legitimate complaints about inconsistent treatment based on race and the lack of a uniform set of rules and disciplinary code.
Fifty-four year-old Davis holds a BA (1985) and LLB (Magna cum laude, 1987) from the University of Cape Town. She worked as an attorney before joining the Bar in 1994 and took silk in March 2018.