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Judge Lebogang Modiba

Capacity: Judge
First appointed as a judge: 01-01-2016 (Gauteng, Johannesburg and Pretoria)
Gender: Female
Ethnicity: African
Date of Birth: 5 December 1971

Key judgments:

Candidate bio:

Judge Lebogang Modiba is a judge of the Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg and Pretoria) and is seen as a rising star in the judiciary. Prior to her appointment as a judge in 2016, Modiba led an illustrious career as an attorney.

Following her admission in 1997, Modiba worked for the Office of the State Attorney and later, the Women’s Legal Centre, focusing on human rights litigation. Her interest in women’s rights also came in her work with the Tshwaranang Legal Research and Advocacy Centre. In 2007, she founded the litigation law firm Modiba & Associates Inc. which she ran as director until her permanent appointment as a judge in 2016.

Modiba holds a B.Proc degree from Wits University, an LLM (Human Rights and Constitutional Practice) from University of Pretoria, and a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard University (US), which he earned on an Edward Mason Fellowship at the Harvard Kennedy School in 2005.

Shortly after the death of struggle stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the Economic Freedom Fighters and its then spokesperson Dr Mbuyiseni Ndlozi went on a crusade identifying certain journalists as members of ‘StratCom’, a shadowy group of journalists hired by the apartheid state security police to infiltrate genuine mediahouses and spread misinformation and propaganda against anti-apartheid activists like Madikizela-Mandela. One such journalist who was accused by the EFF was SABC economics editor Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki. It fell on Modiba to decide whether the EFF’s accusation of Gqubule-Mbeki as a member of StratCom was defamatory. In a detailed judgment, Modiba found that the EFF and Ndlozi’s statements against Gqubule-Mbeki were defamatory as they could not be backed up by evidence nor were they fair comment in the hurly-burly of South African politics. She found that they were aggravated by the EFF and Ndlozi’s complete refusal to accept that they were wrong even when it was pointed out to them, and their dogged refusal to apologise. Modiba ordered that the EFF and Ndlozi retract the statements, issue an apology and pay Gqubule-Mbeki R40 000 in damages, including her legal costs.

In 2019 Modiba became one of the founding members of the Special Tribunal, a specialised court established to recover public money lost through corruption, fraud and maladministration in the public sector. Soft-spoken Modiba is known for her firm but fair approach to

Tribunal hearings, and is quick to call out lawyers for their antics at their court. In Special Investigating Unit v Caledon River Properties, a case dealing with the fraud and corruption perpetrated in the botched construction of the Beit Bridge Border fence at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Modiba was faced with a technical (and some say theatrical) challenge to the jurisdiction of the Special Tribunal, on the basis that it is not a ‘court of law’ as contemplated by the Constitution. In a carefully-worded judgment, Modiba explained that the Special Tribunal was in fact a court of law as envisaged by section 166(1)(e) of the Constitution and therefore had the jurisdiction to hear the Caledon River case and issue orders attaching money and other assets.

Although her background is on human rights, constitutional law and public law in general, Modiba is seen as adept in commercial law matters. She sits as one of the judges of the Commercial Court in Johannesburg, and has written judges on tax law, contract law, insolvency and defamation.