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Judge Shanaaz Mia

Mia - Gauteng - JSC Interviews - October 2019

Capacity: Judge
First appointed as a judge: January 2020 (Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg)
Further Appointments:
Gender: Female
Ethnicity: Mixed Race
Date of Birth: December 1968
Qualifications: BA (1989), LLB (1995) (UCT); LLM (2002) (UWC)

Key judgments:


Candidate Biography (updated April 2024):

Judge Shanaaz Mia is a judge of the Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg.

Before taking up a position as a permanent judge of the Gauteng High Court in 2020, Mia spent several years working up the legal ranks: from a public defender at Legal Aid in 1996, a legal advisor with the South Peninsula Municipality, an associate attorney at law firm Y. Ebrahim & Associates in 1997, a family advocate in 1998, a magistrate in 2003, senior magistrate in 2003, and acting judge on several High Court divisions from 2009 to 2019.

In that time, she racked considerable judicial experience, especially on issues relating to land and children.

While acting as a judge of the Land Claims Court in 2009, Mia was confronted with the tension between rights to land, culture and religion in the Ndala v Visagie case. A Mr Visagie owned the farm Yzervarkfontein, which the Ndala family had obtained occupation rights in terms of section 6 of the Extension of Security of Tenure Act of 1997. However, Mr Visagie denied, on religious grounds, the Ndala family from exercising their occupational rights, which included a desire by the Ndala family to hold an initiation school for their sons on the land. Mia found that the Constitution provided protection for cultural rights and initiation schools were a key component of the Ndala family’s Ndebele culture. Their right to culture and land occupation, had to balanced against Visagie’s religious and land ownership rights, Mia ruled, finding in favour of the Ndala family.

“The applicants’ Ndebele culture enjoys the same protection as the respondent’s right to practice his religion. Given that both parties have rights with regard to religion or culture the respondent’s right does not entitle him to prevent the applicants from exercising their cultural rights.”

With BA and LLB degrees from the University of Cape Town, Mia went on to complete her LLM at the University of the Western Cape, with the dissertation on ‘The Child’s Voice in Court Proceedings in terms of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.”. Her experience with child-related matters was also bolstered by her 4-year stint as a family advocate in the Department of Justice.

Mia has been actively involved in community and legal professional affairs. In 2000, she founded women’s charity Shura Yabafazi. From 2001 to 2003 she was active in the leadership structures of the Western Cape branch of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADEL). Upon her appointment as magistrate in 2003, she joined the Judicial Officers Association of South Africa (JOASA), where she stayed until her elevation to the high court.

Mia has also served as a trainer and lecturer for the SA Judicial Education Institute for several years, focused on issues such as equality and non-discrimination, HIV/Aids and the law, and child justice.

While Mia has worked in the Land Claims Court for an effective 15 years (2009 -2024), the jury is still out on her elibility for judge president of the new Land Court. While there are no doubts about her ability to write and deliver judgments in highly complex and pressurized environments, her relative paucity of reported judgments significantly counts against her. Drawing from her experience as a magistrate, she might just be the administrative broom to sweep the ailing court clean. These are some of the issues expected to dominate her interview for the top job.

April 2024 Interview


October 2019 Interview:

October 2019 Interview Synopsis:

Adv Mia’s interview was likely the shortest interview in the history of the JSC. It only lasted for 2 minutes and 54 seconds. Only the Chief Justice and JP Mlambo posed questions to Adv. Mia. It must be noted that these were not even direct questions, but confirmatory statements couched as questions.

Mia has been a magistrate for approximately 17 years. She has acted as a judge for 18 months in the land claims court, she has acted for two terms in the Western Cape Division of the High Court, she also acted for two terms in the Free State High Court Division and a further two terms and four weeks in the South and North Gauteng Divisions. Adv. Mia has penned 79 judgments. The longest she took to produce a judgment timeously was in the land claims court when she took just over six months to produce a judgment. However, while acting in the High Court she has always produced her judgments within three months.

Mia confirmed that she was absolutely ready to join the bench as she is comfortable as an acting judge. After 2 minutes and 54 seconds into the interview none of the commissioners had any question to pose to Adv Mia and the Chief Justice had no other alternative but to excuse her as the interview had concluded. With a blank look on her face Adv Mia reluctantly walked out of the interview.