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Judge Lindiwe Rusi

Candidate Bio:

Judge Lindiwe Rusi is a judge of the Eastern Cape High Court.

Rusi was a magistrate in Mount Ayliff, Eastern Cape since July 2010, after holding a brief stint as an acting magistrate since 2009. In 2013 she was transferred to the Pietermaritzburg Magistrates Court where she was exposed to criminal law, family law and civil disputes. It is this latter experience that prepared her for an acting stint as a Regional Magistrate between 2018 and 2019, where she dealt with complex criminal cases like rape, murder, and robbery with aggravating circumstances. She would later act as a judge from April 2021, where she criss-crossed the province between the five cities where the Eastern Cape High Court sits to hear some of the most serious criminal law cases, complex civil cases, and even constitutional disputes.

Prior to her elevation to judicial office, Rusi was an attorney at Legal Aid South Africa. Rusi holds the B. Iuris and LLB degrees the then University of the Transkei (now Walter Sisulu University), where she also spent seven years as a legal academic lecturing the law of evidence, criminal procedure, and commercial law. Rusi also holds an LLM from Unisa.

Acting President David Mabuza appointed Rusi as a permanent judge from 1 January 2022.

October 2021 JSC Interview

October 2021 Interview synopsis

Behind Mthatha Magistrate Lindiwe Rusi’s youthful personality and calm demeanour, lies a fierce character that shone through during her JSC interview for the sole judge post in the Eastern Cape High Court, Mthatha. An objection was filed against Rusi based on two events that occurred during her time as an attorney at Legal Aid SA. The first is an allegation that Rusi used the Legal Aid SA computers to access inappropriate materials during office hours. The second was an allegation that, due Rusi’s abrupt (on 24 hours’ notice) resignation, she caused Legal Aid financial harm and was being sued as a result. She firmly denied both allegations, in an exchange between her and Justice Mandisa Maya, Rusi denied that she had ever misused office computers in this way and that, in fact, there she could not have accessed such inappropriate (“obscene”) material as the office computers at the time did not even have access to the internet.

In another exchange with Commissioner Dodovu, Rusi explained that her abrupt departure was not unceremonious or caused financial harm to Legal Aid SA as the objector suggested but she left due to the combination of better opportunities elsewhere a toxic working environment. “No one can be sued for exercising their contractual right to leave employment… [T]here was never a lawsuit or any judgment against me,” she added. She later explained that, due to the toxic working environment at the time, it was a norm for legal practitioners to abruptly resign and leave Legal Aid SA.

The latter part of the response did not seem to satisfy Deputy CJ Zondo, who asked – in an elevated tone – whether it was acceptable for her to do something (not giving notice) because others were doing it too. Rusi, with her signature smile, conceded that it might seem bizarre but noted that it was a commonly acceptable practice at that local office based on their unique circumstances.

Towards the end of the interview, an emotional Rusi, still with her unflinching smile, explained that objection came from an anonymous source who had never met or worked with Rusi, and seemed to have been calculated to damage her reputation. “I would never put myself through the embarrassment of having to deal with all of these issues on a public platform if I knew any of these allegations were true,” she added.

Overall, Rusi’s professional track record and her firm but calm responses to the piercing questions seemed to win over the JSC, and she was recommended as the ideal candidate (against four others) for the sole judge vacancy at the Eastern Cape High Court, Mthatha.