Current position: Senior magistrate
While acting at the Free State Division of the High Court Mia heard a matter as part of a full Bench, Pienaar v Vukile Property Fund, which was a claim for damages for the injuries sustained by the plaintiff when she slipped and fell at a shopping mall.
The main issue before the court on appeal was whether or not the respondent’s negligence in not cleaning tiles was the cause of the appellant’s falling and injuring herself.
Mia (with Judge Corne van Zyl concurring) noted that the appellant had elected to claim damages from the respondent, “who would ordinarily not be liable for the negligent acts of the subcontractor it engaged to clean the Centre.”
She held that the respondent’s liability would arise from a breach of its duty to take reasonable steps to prevent injury which it ought to have seen. In this case, “it is evident that the respondent took steps to guard against harm. The respondent appointed a subcontractor to clean the premises and took steps to ensure that the performance of the duty was undertaken and that the necessary care was taken.”
In dismissing the appeal with costs, Mia held that there was insufficient evidence led to show the respondent had failed in its duty to take necessary care.
In the 2009 Land Claims Court matter of Baphiring Community v Uys and Others, the claimant proposed to hold the land in question through a communal property association to which all the community members would be allowed to join.
The main issue was whether the restoration would be feasible and equitable in terms of Section 33 of the Restitution of Land Rights Act.
Mia, with her two assessors concurring, noted the affected land was used for agricultural cultivation, and carried an estimated value of R70-million. The difference in the value of the land between the time of dispossession and the present value was “considerable”.
She noted that expropriation required the landowners to be compensated for the financial losses suffered, which would have an adverse effect on the fiscus while moving the community – some of whom may not have been willing to relocate – to another area would force a “downgrade to their living space.” The land claimants had also asked that their ancestral graves be returned to them, at the very least.
While Mia found that while restituting the farmland was unfeasible, the return of the community’s grave-sites was — this was to be decided in a subsequent hearing. Furthermore, the community were entitled to equitable redress, the form and extent of which was also to be determined in a subsequent hearing. No order was made as to costs.
The decision was overturned on appeal in the Supreme Court of Appeal which held that whilst the Land Claims Court had been correct to take the cost implications of restoration into account, it was hamstrung by inadequate evidence on the issue. This meant it could not determine the question of feasibility conclusively, and ought to have ordered the state to lead further evidence. The case was remitted to the Land Claims Court.
Fifty-year-old Mia holds a BA (1989) and LLB (1995) from the University of Cape Town and an LLM (2002) from the University of Western Cape. She then worked as a public defender for Legal Aid SA before joining the magistracy where she currently works as a senior magistrate. She has acted in the Land Claims Court and the Free State, Gauteng and Western Cape divisions of the High Court.
A member of the Judicial Officers Association of South Africa (Joasa), Mia is also a founding member of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers.