Current position: Advocate SC
Date appointed: Awarded silk in 2014
During his career as a lawyer Zilwa has been involved in some of the most controversial cases in the Eastern Cape, including the battle over the exhumation and reburial of the remains of former president Nelson Mandela’s children and a case questioning the legitimacy of the ANC’s 2017 Eastern Cape provincial conference where delegates hurled chairs at each other during bouts of violence.
According to his application form, Zilwa has acted “almost annually” in the Eastern Cape High Court from 1997. In 2008 and 2010 he also acted at the Labour Court in Johannesburg.
In 2013, as part of a full Bench in the Eastern Cape, he agreed with the reduction of a rapist’s sentence from life imprisonment to 20 years. He did this after a co-accused in the rape trial had previously appealed separately and seen his sentence similarly reduced.
“I am of the view that a lengthy term of imprisonment, but not life imprisonment, is called for and it would meet the justice of the case. I see no reason to deviate from the 20 year imprisonment term that was imposed on appeal to the other person who was convicted of the same offence, which sentence I consider just and proper in these circumstances,” Zilwa found.
Zilwa, who was nominated by the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (Nadel) branches in Mthatha and Border has represented clients at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and was the chief evidence leader of the 2005 Pillay Commission which had investigated financial irregularities in the Eastern Cape government.
He studied at the University of the Transkei (now Walter Sisulu University) where he obtained a B Iuris (1985) and an LLB (1992). He was admitted to the Bar in 1993 and was awarded silk in 2014. In 1991 and 1992 he worked as a state advocate for the now defunct Transkei government and also served as a magistrate and prosecutor in the 1980s.
October 2019 interview: