First Appointed: April 2021
(1) H v Minister Of Police (38136/2015)  ZAGPPHC 781 (24 November 2017) ;
(2) P and Another v S (A240/ 2017)  ZAGPPHC 1261 (15 December 2017) ;
(3) Mahlangu v State (383/2017)  ZAGPPHC 35 (25 February 2019)
(4) Grimbeek Samantha Amanda v RAF, Unreported Judgment, Case No.57751/14 , Gauteng Division, Pretoria
Ms Munzhelele not only identifies gaps in the legal system but also comes up with solutions and ideas to fill those gaps. She identified a skills gap among law graduate students and initiated a moot court that was ultimately incorporated into the law curriculum as a module at the University of Venda. She identified the need for a Shona interpreter at the Sibasa Regional Court and motivated for the appointment of one. She also identified the lack of law and consequences knowledge among secondary and primary school learners and introduced an outreach for same around Thohoyandou in Vhembe District.
The alumnus of Venda University acquired her B.Iuris and LLB in 1995 and 1997 respectively. She started her career as a state prosecutor and has since served in different capacities in the judiciary as a magistrate and a regional magistrate. She was first appointed as an acting judge in 2017 in the Gauteng Division of the High Court. She was a member of the Judicial Officers Association of South Africa (JOASA) from 2006-2014 and is a member of the Black Lawyers Association (BLA).
In P and Another v S, where the appellant had not been informed of the applicability of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, Munzhelele AJ (Janse van Nieuwenhuizen J and Cambanis AJ concurring) upheld the appeal stating that “[t]o be informed about such a patently serious matter at the end of a trial as it happened in this case, defeats the very purpose envisaged by s 35(3) of the Constitution. Put simply, such would be a trial by ambush which is neither desirable nor permissible in a constitutional democracy underpinned by a Bill of Rights.” (paragraph 32). Ms Munzhelele has contributed to other notable judgments while appointed as an acting judge.
April 2021 Interview Synopsis:
Society — whether the judiciary, the magistracy, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), organisations like the Black Lawyers Association (BLA) and the SA Judicial Education Institute (SAJEI) or ordinary functionaries — appears woefully under-equipped to deal with regional magistrate Mashudu Munzhelele.
Mainly because she is a no-nonsense, opinionated Black woman. But, also, because she is in a wheelchair.
Munzhelele told the JSC about her struggles as someone with disabilities to access courts, events hosted by the legal fraternity, and to get the required assistance necessary for her to just do her job and live her life — including appearing at the JSC for her interview.
Pointing to her sibling who was in the interview room at the Capital on the Park Hotel in Sandton, Munzhelele said: “Even today, I had to get my sister to come with me… But I had to pay for her to be here.”
She told the commission that this was nothing new since every time she attended a SAJEI training event “we have to fight for someone to assist me”.
“People expect me to carry my books and still wheel myself around,” she told the commission. She had earlier told the JSC about having to withdraw from BLA events because they were usually at venues that were inaccessible by wheelchair: “This is what people do if they want to discriminate against you, they put up a barrier.”
A regional magistrate in Sibasa in Thoyoyandou, Limpopo, Munzhelele talked of how, when she joined the court in November 2013, temporary ramps had been in place to ensure she could move from her car to her chambers and to one court. Promises that the court building would be made more wheelchair friendly and accessible to her had been made over this time, including during the visits of a deputy justice minister, “but up to today, it’s still the same.”
Among the other difficulties Munzhelele faced was that she still didn’t have an assistant or a printing machine for making copies of court documents.
She dismissed promises by National Council of Provinces vice-chairperson, Sylvia Lucas that she would get the judiciary committee to look into effecting changes at Sibasa a matter of urgency.
Forthright and fiery, Munzhelele told Lucas: “I don’t know how many people have come to Sibasa in a year – two sets of people coming to do the same report, but why have they not dealt with it? It should not be lip service, it should be what we do. It’s not what we say, it’s what we do that is the issue.”
She said one of the saving graces in recent years had been her experience with Gauteng Judge President Dunstan Mlambo when he had called her to act at the high court. According to Munzhelele she didn’t have to bang her head with Mlambo who ensured she had an assistant, a parking space with a free area to the right of it for easy access into and out of her car and an office which she could access. The only problem she said, was that the toilets in the court building in Pretoria was too small.
But there was more to Munzhelele’s interview. She told the JSC about how, when she moved to the Sibasa regional magistrate’s court, she had initiated a moot court contest for law students at the University of Venda.
These would happen on Saturdays in the regional court buildings and Munzhelele would adjudicate, proffering advice afterwards about what “they were lacking”. Such was to success that students went on to “win international competitions”, while the university started a course incorporating moot courts.
Munzhelele said, according to her, the three most important attributes for a judge were impartiality, honesty and independence. Her judicial philosophy was “based on the Constitution and the rule of law… I always strive to observe human dignity, equality and freedom in this era of democracy,” she said.
Munzhelele was nominated for appointment.
April 2021 Interview: