Admitted as attorney: November 2008
Date of Birth: September 1983
Qualifications: LLB (2003) (Wits)
- Blennis v Mokgosi (JR825/21) ZALCJHB (3 August 2022)
- NUMSA v CCMA (JR1143/12) ZALCJHB (19 May 2019)
- SACCAWU v Connect Financial Services (JS121/2021) (9 March 2023)
- Samanchor Chrome v NUM o.b.o Mahlangu (J817/15)
Candidate Biography | Updated October 2023
It took Pietermaritzburg-born employment law attorney Gugulethu Mthalane 15 years from starting her legal career as a candidate attorney to reaching the pinnacle, as a director and head of department at a large commercial law firm, complete with a swanky office in Sandton.
While Mthalane’s rapid rise through the ranks is remarkable for anyone, that she is a black woman, who statistically faces the structural barriers in the legal profession, makes her ascent an even more remarkable feat.
Mthatha worked at the Master’s Office for a year in 2005 as a deceased’s’ estates examiner and the guardian’s fund. This was in between her studying for a law degree at Wits University, which she obtained in 2006.
Mthabela worked at several of the well-known employment law firms as candidate attorney (Mkhabela Huntley, 2006 – 2008), an associate (Cowan Harper, 2009 – 2011; and Mabaso Attorneys, 2011 – 2013), senior associate (Solomon Holmes, 2013 – 2020), and finally director and head of department (Lawtons Africa, 2021 – 2023).
In all of these roles Mthalane represented large corporate employers as well as state owned companies like Eskom, and governments like the City of Tshwane. She briefed advocates to appear in court on behalf of her clients but also did some appearances herself, including in Ntsimane v City of Tshwane, where the court established the principle of the exact moment a disciplinary hearing starts.
She left legal practice to join food and beverage multinational PepsiCo as group employee relations manager in 2013.
Between 2020 and 2023 Mthalane held several intermittent stints as an acting judge in the Labour Court, where she wrote the judgment in NUMSA o.b.o Ramolebo v CCMA. In that case, coal mining conglomerate Xstrata dismissed an employee for causing damage to mining machinery. The employee, Mr Ramolebo, through his union, NUMSA, challenged the dismissal at the CCMA, where it was found to have been procedurally and substantively fair. On review in the Labour Court, Mthalane was called upon to decide if the CCMA commissioner reached a reasonable decision. After reviewing the evidence and record of proceedings, together with legal authorities for misconduct dismissals based on a breach of a workplace rule, Mthalane found that the commissioners’ decision was reasonable, and the dismissal was fair.
Mthalane was a member of the SA Society of Labour Law (SASLAW) and sat on its executive committee between 2019 and 2022. For her employment law work, she was listed in the publication Best Lawyers in South Africa for 2022/23. Following the July 2021 unrest, she published an article titled ‘Looting and Civil Unrest: The danger of acting with common purposes’ published in Without Prejudice! magazine.
While Mthalane’s journey as an employment lawyer is remarkable, the General Council of the Bar has raised have raised an issue that might affect her readiness for judicial office, in its review submitted for the Judicial Service Commission’s October 2023 sitting. The GCB allege that Mthalane refused leave to appeal in the case of Department of Correctional Services v Nxele in chambers, without the lawyers of both parties present, and also issued a variation order on the same day. They believe that the JSC should probe this issue at the interview.
Nevertheless, the GCB still says “although [Mthalane] is relatively young, [she] has extensive knowledge and experience in the field of labour law. Her appointment would send a message that young competent lawyers also have a contribution to make as judicial officers.” She will have to confront these comments at the interview.”
October 2023 Interview
Ms Gugulethu Mthalane’s October 2023 interview for a position on the Labour Court was unsuccessful. She was not nominated for appointment.