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Judge Marcus Senyatsi

Senyatsi - JSC Interviews - October 2019


Current position: Judge on Gauteng High Court

Date appointed: 1993

Candidate bio:

When police spread rumours of witchcraft in an age of mob volatility, its certain that threat to life isn’t too far away. Or a claim against the police minister for endangering innocent people’s lives.

While acting at the Gauteng Division of the High Court in January 2018 Marcus Senyatsi ordered the state to make a R850 000 damages pay-out to Frans Mojapelo after police had alleged he had kept a skeleton and an unlicensed firearm on his premises.

In Mojapelo T/A Jikeleza Tavern v Minister of Safety and Security and Another, Mojapelo had argued that because of the unsubstantiated rumours his life had been in danger and he had to relocate his family.

Senyatsi held: “In my view [Mojapelo] is entitled to a substantial damages award. He had to relocate his family from Siyabuswa as the insult was potentially endangering his life. We know in the Republic that someone accused of keeping for instance [sic] human skeleton at his house in some communities may be associated with the practice of witchcraft which may lead to such person being killed. This is why our law has made it a criminal offence to accuse anyone of witchcraft. The injury suffered as a result of such accusation by the second defendant is understandable and cannot be under estimated.”

An ANC member from 1999-2012, Senyatsi has spent five acting stints at the Gauteng Division of the High Court of South Africa.

Senyatsi has shown solid adjudication abilities in the meat and bones of high court cases, including appeals against denial of bail and the admission of evidence in criminal procedure applications.

His judgment in Stirling v Fairgrove (Pty) Ltd and Others was considered reportable after he held the Registrar of Deed was liable for failing to do a due diligence on scam artists purporting to be conveyancers who fraudulently sold a property without the consent of its owner.

Senyatsi holds a B.Proc (1984) and an LLB (1989) from the University of Limpopo. He has previously worked as a legal advisor for the Lebowa bantustan’s development corporation and as an attorney before starting his own practice in 1993. Between 2001-2008 he was the executive manager at South African Airways and is currently legal manager at the Industrial Development Corporation. He was previously cautioned for a late return of a trust fund financial statement.

October 2019 Interview:

October 2019 Interview Synopsis: 

Corporate attorney Mr Malcolm Senyatsi returns to the JSC for the second time in as many years. On the previous occasion, his lack of courtroom experience scuppered his chances of getting the nod for appointment. Will they do the same this time around?

Following his previous interview, Mr Senyatsi has acted on a continuous basis, racking up a total of 74 weeks’ experience on the Bench. He also appeared much calmer in this interview than the previous occasion, where he appeared failed to impress. This time he had leaned back on his chair and took all the questions in his stride.

He was asked to deal with two objections received by a litigant and the National Forum for Advocates. The first objection related to how he dealt with a supposed conflict of interests, as the opponent of the objecting litigation had been the Industrial Development Corporation, which Mr Senyatsi had previously worked for. He disputed the merit of the objection and explained that there was no such conflict, as he had long ended his professional association with the IDC; and, nevertheless, the IDC was not a litigant before him. He similarly dismissed a media report on the same issue. The second objection seemed to have been a gripe by a losing advocate, concerning how Mr Senyatsi handled the case. Mr Senyatsi explained that the advocate had not appealed or reviewed the matter, which are the proper channels to indicate dissatisfaction with a judgment, and thus the objection was unfounded.

Being a corporate attorney, who previously worked for South African Airways, the politicians on the JSC wasted no time in asking Mr Senyatsi for his views on how to fix the ailing airline, and general issues of corporate governance at State-Owned Enterprises.

Mr Senyatsi was recommend for appointment.

October 2018 Interview:

October 2018 Interview Synopsis:

Addressing concerns raised by the General Council of the Bar (GCB) that he did not have enough courtroom experience because of the time spent in the corporate world, attorney Marcus Senyatsi, assured the Judicial Service Commission that he “was never lost to the legal fraternity”.

He said he had garnered enough experience acting at the high court and while working as a legal advisor in the private sector to feel he would be on top of things on the Bench.

On delivering judgments timeously, Senyatsi said he got “concerned when I have reserved judgments… its a matter of diligence”.

During his half-hour interview, commissioners noted that Senyatsi and been a member of the ANC and had worked at South African Airways and the Industrial Development Corporation. He assured the commission that he would recuse himself from any matters involving either of these companies if the case involved issues which he was directly linked to.

Senyatsi said he had briefed “many black advocates” during his time as an attorney.

During a line of questioning around protecting the intellectual property rights of indigenous knowledge systems and geographic indication certifications, Senyatsi appeared unfamiliar with the latest developments.

Senyatsi came across a little stilted during his unsuccessful interview and certainly appeared much stronger on paper — where he has delivered, in the main, clear and uncluttered judgments.