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Judge Nyameko Wellman Gqamana SC

Gqamana - Eastern Cape - JSC interviews 2019


Current position: Judge Eastern Cape High Court, Gqeberha

Date appointed: October 2019

Candidate bio:

An advocate since 1998, Gqamana has appeared in several high profile cases and was appointed senior counsel in 2014. He has acted several times in the Eastern Cape High Court between 2012 and 2018.

In his 2015 judgment, Sladiel v Minister of Police, he found the latter was liable for damages caused after the plaintiff had been shot by unidentified members of the police.

He found the defendant’s argument that the police may have been members of the “metro police” rather than the South African Police Service was not supported by any evidence, while the plaintiff and his witness made “favourable impressions upon me and were generally good witnesses”.

In delivering judgment Gqamana was scathing of the police’s unprovoked brutality: “A strikingly disturbing aspect in this matter is that, [the] plaintiff was shot and assaulted without having provoked the police. His attempt to take cover by running away resulted in him having been shot from behind. The same police undeterred by the fact that plaintiff was injured, continued to assault him even though he committed no wrong. I must express my view that those police members that were involved in this incident are an embarrassment to the police profession. It is so unfortunate that their names could not be identified, otherwise I would not have hesitated in asking for the Registrar of this Court to forward this judgment to the Provincial Commissioner and National Commissioner for disciplinary actions against those police members.”

In Odendaal v S, a bank clerk appealed against a ten year imprisonment sentence after being convicted of theft of over R1-million. Having pleaded guilty and offered to reimburse the bank, the clerk argued the sentence was inappropriate.

Gqamana held: “The gravity of the offence of which the appellant was convicted calls for a severe sentence. If one weighs the appellant’s personal circumstances against the nature of the offence relevant hereto, her systematic scheme and the manner in which she committed the offence relevant hereto, the inescapable conclusion is that, the seriousness of the offence and interests of society far outweigh the appellant’s personal circumstances… She did not report her conduct herself but she was caught.”

In dismissing the appeal, Gqamana held that the sentence was appropriate and there was no basis for interfering with the decision.

Gqamana was nominated by the Port Elizabeth branch of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (Nadel) who felt his appointment will strengthen the Bench due to his “fine qualities of integrity, diligence and knowledge of the law”.

Forty-six year-old Gqamana holds a B Iuris (1993) and an LLB (1996) from Vista University (1993). In 1999 he obtained a higher diploma in labour law from the then University of Port Elizabeth (now Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University) where he subsequently completed an LLM a year later.

He has previously worked as a part-time senior arbitrator at the South African Local Government Bargaining Council and the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration. Gqamana is also a member of the Mxhelo Woolgrowers Association and the Eastern Province Cricket Audit Committee.

October 2019 interview:

October 2019 Interview Synopsis: 

Nyameko Gqamana SC, an advocate since 1998, has spent 39 weeks as an acting judge, spread out since 2012.

And, commented several members of the JSC, in addition to that experience, he had prepared an extremely impressive nomination document.

Discussing his decision to accept nomination to the bench for a permanent position Gqamana said the Judge President ‘has influenced us to make ourselves available.’

‘If the JP has spoken it is so difficult to say “No”, and then you get to the stage when you have to agree.’

As with previous candidates, Gqamana was asked about government briefing patterns and the discussion of this issue took up much of his interview.

At one point the Chief Justice added, ‘For what it is worth, let me just say: I have seen white talent; I have seen black talent. I honestly don’t understand why we see very few black faces at the constitutional court whenever matters that matter are there. And my colleagues tell me – the President (of the Supreme Court of Appeal) and the Judges President – that the picture is no different in their courts. I don’t understand this.’

On the question of senior counsel involving juniors of the same colour as themselves in cases, the CJ said, ‘Some people may be thinking that there is an anti-white agenda. That is not the message. The message is this country belongs to all of us; let’s share.’

Then the question of Bisho and Umtata re-emerged.

Gqamana was asked by the Chief Justice if he could explain the problem about getting candidates to make themselves available in Umtata.

‘I am not really sure why it is like that,’ said Gqamana. ‘I must indicate that I do appear in the Umtata high court from time to time.’ He did not know which if any candidate applied for Umtata. ‘But I understand that one of my colleagues who is from Umtata (and was interviewed by the JSC) applied for Bisho.’

Was there in fact a vacancy in Umtata, asked the Chief Justice, obviously puzzled. Several people then answered at once, and a commissioner clarified: no-one had wanted a position on the Umtata bench; there had been no applications and no-one was shortlisted. ‘We had vacancies in Umtata but we could not get candidates. That is why we are not interviewing for Umtata.’

The CJ picked up the issue again, with a question to Gqamana: ‘This is one and the same province. Would you be opposed, if it were possible, to an appointment to Umtata? I know there is no shortlist. But it is the same province. It is not as if it is Mpumalanga.’

Gqamana said he was sure the CJ was aware of the ‘geographical set up’ of the Eastern Cape. ‘I am currently residing in Port Elizabeth, also hailing from Alice, a village in the Eastern Cape where the University of Fort Hare is. But my family is in Port Elizabeth. A drive from Port Elizabeth to Umtata takes about six hours.’

‘I must just indicate that if one resides in Port Elizabeth and is appointed in Umtata, there would always be a challenge in so far as accommodation (is concerned). We all know that getting accommodation in Umtata is a big challenge.’

Chief Justice: Is that so?

Gqamana: Indeed so.

Chief Justice: Oh! I thought people had left Umtata, gone to Port Elizabeth, Grahamstown, and left houses vacant there to be bought at a reduced price?

Gqamana: I can even indicate, Chief Justice, that the prices of the houses in Umtata could even be equivalent to those in Sandton, here in Jo’burg.

Chief Justice: No!

Gqamana: I am serious.

Chief Justice: Wow.

Gqamana: It is a gold mine of the Eastern Cape but people have not realised that.

Advocate Gqamana SC was recommended for appointment.