First admitted: 1995
Date of Birth: June 1968
Qualifications: BA (Law) LLB (Wits University)
- PEG HR Solutions (Pty) Ltd and Dlamini v First Rand Bank (41440/18) ZAGPJHC (22 June 2021)
- Stoch v Mntambo N.O. (38240/2020) ZAGPJHC (11 August 2022)
- Unitrans Automotive (Pty) Ltd t/a MC Dulings Volkswagen v Naidoo
“Any murder of a young soul deals a heavy blow to the future of this country. There was no proof that the deceased committed any offence, let alone shot at the police officer. One would expect police officers to be well trained to deal with the youth and their exuberance not to snuff life out of them….one would expect the police to exhibit Ubuntu in their operation.”
These are the words of Soweto attorney Mandlenkosi Motha in the Rolston Pillay v State case, as he rejected an appeal against a murder conviction and life sentence by a police officer who shot and killed a young man purportedly out of self-defence.
The police officer, Mr Pillay, argued that the trial court had erred in convicting him of murder as he was firing back against the young man who had fired initial shots towards the police.
Motha, while acting as a high court judge, rejected this argument and confirmed the sentence of the trial court, adding that police officers must be held accountable.
“The community needs to be protected against wanton destruction of life. The police are expected to be torch bearers when it comes to protecting the community and human life.
Motha’s emphasis of ubuntu aligns with his personal ethos of social justice and community service. After graduating from the Wits Law School, Motha joined Mophosho Attorneys as a candidate attorney in 1993. After his admission, he started lecturing labour and commercial law at the then Vista University’s Soweto Campus.
Not long afterwards, in 1995, he established his own law firm, MP Motha Attorneys at the heart of Soweto in Dube. The firm was deeply embedded in the community, having a generalist practice which served a broad clientele of small businesses and ordinary residents of Soweto. The firm also served as a training ground for young lawyers, graduating more than 12 candidate attorneys in its over 27 years of existence, including 3 who remain as senior attorneys at the firm.
Motha continued with lecturing part-time, this time at the North West University, while at the same time serving as a commissioner on the Small Claims Court form March 2012.
In 2013, he helped establish and run the Soweto Small Claims Court and continues to preside in over 50 cases a month, with claims ranging from R20 000 to a R100 for the loss of a chicken.
Motha has held several acting stints as a judge in the Gauteng High Court, in Pretoria and Johannesburg, dealing with both civil and criminal matters.
A skilled wordsmith, Motha has written several judgments in his eclectic judgment-writing style.
He wrote the judgment of the 3-judge panel in PEG HR Solutions, a case where banking giant FirstRand sought to wind up and liquidate a small HR and payroll-solution provider and hold its director liable for the surety. The key questions were whether PEG and FirstRand had concluded a ‘compromise agreement’ for the over R20 million debt the former owed to the latter, and which prevented FirstRand from seeking liquidation; and whether PEG had validly ‘secured’ the debt (by having enough assets or someone stand as surety).
On both questions, Motha found in favour of FirstRand.
He found that there was no evidence that PEG HR Solutions and FirstRand had come to any agreement, and in fact the letters exchanged between them showed the opposite.
Motha also found that PEG HR Solutions did not put up any assets to prove it had sufficient security to fend off the winding up, plus the person who stood surety, a Mr Dlamini, also failed to make good on his personal surety.
The 55-year-old Motha has been a member of the Black Lawyers’ Association since 1995 and holds BA (Law) and LLB degrees from Wits University. A lifelong Sowetan and Joburger, Motha’s elevation to the Bench would undoubtedly be a crowning achievement in a legal career rooted in the community.
But is this enough to convince the JSC?
April 2023 interview
Mr Mandlenkosi Percival Motha’s interview was successful. The JSC has recommended him for appointment to the Gauteng Division of the High Court