Current position: Regional Magistrate
Date Appointed: 1996
Dosio has acted for at least one term a year at the Gauteng Division of the High Court since 2013. During that time he heard a case, S v Mogaramedi, in 2015, which reflected the tensions that exist between a modern constitutional democracy and notions of culture and tradition that bleed into the murderous.
S v Mogaramedi was an appeal to a full bench of the Gauteng Division of the High Court against a sentencing decision in which the court a quo had found the accused guilty of murder and sentenced him to life imprisonment.
The appellant, a sangoma of ten years prior to the case, had killed his sister and removed her genital organs as part of his final initiation – to which he pleaded guilty.
He, however, argued that compelling and substantial circumstances existed to justify a lesser sentence than the prescribed minimum sentence of life imprisonment. These included his age and the fact that he was a first time offender; that the killing was motivated by a deep rooted religious belief and was a necessary part of his initiation to become a sangoma and that he has suffered emotional hardship after committing the offence.
Dosio AJ (Judge Jody Kollapen and acting Judge Anthony Thobane concurring) engaged in the balancing of two rights in the Bill of Rights: the right to life (Section 11) and the right to cultural and religious practices (Section 31).
Dosio held that the appellant’s religious beliefs and conviction could not supersede his sister’s right to life: “Although everyone has a right to practice their belief, as soon as this belief leads to an action which falls within the bounds of illegality, for instance, a murder to obtain body parts, then in terms of s 31(2) of the Bill of Rights it can no longer be condoned or protected merely because it is based on a religious or cultural belief. Cultural and religious beliefs must respect life and must be practiced in line with the Bill of Rights.”
Regarding sentence, Dosio held the case was one of “exceptional seriousness”, and that the circumstances, “cumulatively regarded” showed that a sentence of life imprisonment was just. The appeal was dismissed.
In 2012 he acted pro bono in the Labour Court where he heard the matter of Motor Industry Staff Association v Stanmar Motors (Pty) (Ltd), which involved an application to have an arbitrator’s award reviewed and set aside.
The second applicant, Allan Bezuidenhout, was given a retrenchment package with a written agreement that, should a suitable position become available within 12 months, the respondent would offer it to him. Despite four such positions becoming available, the second applicant maintained that no such offer was made. The parties submitted their disagreement to an arbitrator, who found that an offer had been made, and that the second applicant had not accepted it.
Dosio found that the arbitrator had failed to apply his mind and had committed an irregularity by not properly considering the written retrenchment agreement between the parties, which clearly placed an onus and duty on the employer to offer the second applicant any and every suitable position for which he was qualified within a 12-month period. The arbitrator also failed to make a finding, with reasons, on whose version of the facts was correct on a preponderance of probabilities.
Dosio also found that the arbitrator has applied incorrect principles of law regarding whether a valid offer of employment had been made and that the respondent’s failure to reemploy the employee as per the terms of their agreement amounted to an unfair labour practice in terms of the Labour Relations Act.
He ordered that the arbitrators’ award be set aside and substituted with an order that the respondent be reemployed.
In 2007 Daso co-authored an article entitled Constructing Hope: A Multi-Agency Programme Model for Young Sex Offenders Living with HIV/Aids in South Africa with Douglas Boer.
The article emphasised the importance of reducing reoffending rates as a way of limiting the spread of HIV to new victims and proposes “an integrative programme that incorporates proven models of sex offender treatment in combination with medical, educational and family support systems to facilitate community reintegration of young sex offenders living with HIV/AIDS.”
Fifty-three year-old Doso holds a BA (1988) and an LLB (1993) from the University of Witwatersrand. He also has a Higher Diploma in Taxation Law (1994) from his alma mater.
Doso worked as a public prosecutor, control public prosecutor and state advocate after serving his articles. He joined the magistracy in 1996 and was promoted to the position of regional magistrate.
According to his CV, he is active in the Judicial Officers Association of South Africa having served in several positions, including national president (2008-2010) and national treasurer (2005-2008). He is also member of the Commonwealth Association of Judges and, in 2015, was a member of the South Africa Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges.
April 2021 Interview:
April 2021 Interview Synopsis:
Magistrate Dario Dosio had an impressive, but ultimately unsuccessful, interview for a position on the Gauteng Division of the High Court in 2019 during which he had talked about the impressive lengths he had gone to assist in transformation of both the legal fraternity and society as a while.
His 2021 interview, which lasted for just under half-an-hour, was smooth and fairly uneventful with commissioners perhaps aware of his background and abilities already.
The ANC MP Jomo
Nyambi had asked him to list three attributes which make a good judge and Dosio had to curb his enthusiasm after realising he had almost doubled that with a list including integrity, patience, fortitude, wisdom and the ability to work quickly.
Asked by academic Engela Schlemmer to describe his judicial philosophy and understanding of the rule of law, Dosio said he tried to apply customary law, statutory law and the common law within the parameters of the Constitution and that the rule of law ensured that on-one was above it: whether president or pauper.
In responding to a follow-up question by attorney Doris Tshepe, one of president Cyril Ramaphosa’s four appointments to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) for him to give an example of how he applied this judicial philosophy, Dosio cited his ruling in the high court matter of S v Mogaramedi, in 2015.
This was an appeal against sentencing before a full Bench of the High Court in which a sangoma of ten years prior to the case, had killed his sister and removed her genital organs as part of his final initiation – to which he pleaded guilty.
The appellant had, however, argued that compelling and substantial circumstances related to his religious and cultural beliefs was cause for a deviation from prescribed sentence.
Dosio told the commission that having considered the right to life in relation to other sections of the Constitution, including the rights to dignity and of religious and cultural freedom, he could not find a compelling reason why the latter ones would trump the right to life.
October 2019 Interview:
October 2019 Interview Synopsis:
‘What makes you particularly suitable for a position as a judge? Do you want to boast a bit?’
Dario Dosio grasped the nettle of these questions posed by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, and rarely has a white male candidate been so obviously – and impressively – prepared for this inevitable moment.
It was crucial to bear in the mind the constitution’s demand that the bench be transformed, he said. But, if there were still additional spaces available, he thought the JSC should consider appointing people who have ‘certain skills to bring to the bench, people who have made a concerted effort towards transformation – and I believe I have done that.’
Starting from his student days, he had ‘always engaged fully’ in the communities where he worked, including Soweto.
This carried over into his work when he appointed as a magistrate in Soweto. If there were suitable people who appeared before him, he would urge them to consider posts in the legal structure. Many took his advice, and are hold positions as magistrates or prosecutors today.
He acted as mentor for many people, is a member of the South African chapter of the International Association of Women Judges and has been fully involved with their mentorship programmes. He was elected as a provincial executive member – normally a position held by a woman – and they had mentored 100 black women final year law students last year and a similar number this year.
While he might not have the skills of other candidates, he had a certain set of skills, and had always tried to make a difference. ‘I have a vision of transformation.’ He had long been involved in the problem of gender violence in South Africa and in 2006 was appointed part of the international association for the treatment of sexual offenders. This gave him insights into the triggers for sexual offences.
When he started work in a specialised sexual offences court the protests outside that court – once a common event – stopped.
Judge President Duncan Mlambo asked questions that allowed Dosio to outline his workload during the four full terms that he acted on the bench, the time he took to deliver decisions, and to reflect on how well he coped with the work.
Dosio said he often delivered extempore decisions in the urgent court, and he thought this was ‘a good thing’. The JP quizzed him further on this: what was Dosio’s view on handing down extempore judgment in the normal opposed motion court?
‘We expect you to write your judgments,’ said the JP, ‘because of the problems that litigants have in accessing transcribed judgments.’ Didn’t it cause delays for litigants in obtaining transcribed judgments when decisions were given extempore?
Dosio said that transcribers could be asked to type decisions urgently. However, he agreed with the JP that most of his (Dosio’s) decisions had in fact been written.
JSC member Thandi Norman SC said she had read most of Dosio’s judgments and that some had ‘developed criminal law’. She and Dosio then discussed a new two-stage test that he had created in response to rape of children with mental disabilities: factual consent and legal consent.
Discussing his understanding of ‘transformation of the judiciary’, Dosio said that included in the mix was an urgent need to make the courts more efficient and easier to access for ordinary people. Changes were not being made fast enough, even though this was ‘an important part of transformation’.
‘We need buildings that are in good condition for (the public) to access,’ he added.
If he needed a boost, two thirds through his interview, it came in the intervention of Mandisa Maya, President of the Supreme Court of Appeal. She and Dosio knew each other as they were part of the SA chapter of the international association of women judges, she declared.
‘I want to commend you for the tremendous work that you do,’ she began. ‘You do tremendous work for the upliftment of your community (Soweto, where Dosio has worked as regional magistrate), the development of its youth and gender equality generally. Not many men can lay claim to that.’
She asked him to tell the commission about one of the projects of which he is a key part that raises awareness and understanding about gender equality and developing responses to gender based violence.
Dosio said this programme had been tried as a pilot project at a school in Thembisa. It involved professional actors who act out a scene involving a sexual crime. The children are then encouraged to join in, on the stage, and finish the story. This might be by addressing the actor playing the role of the perpetrator, challenging him about his actions for example.
The plan now was for this project to be extended to other schools with the help of the Market Theatre. Performances would be attended by legal officers – judges, magistrates or counsel – who would talk to the children and stress that they had rights and should bring their complaints about sexual abuse to the courts.
‘We want to empower young women to know what their rights are and if they are accosted or placed in difficult situations, not to keep quiet but to verbalise this assault on their person’ and bring the problem to the attention of the authorities.
Magistrate Dario Dosio was not recommended for appointment, but his interview was an inspiration and makes the point that the commitment of individuals can indeed make a difference.