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Judge Nozuko Gloria Mjali

Capacity: Judge
First appointed as judge:  October 2010 (Eastern Cape High Court, Mthatha)
Acting appointments: Supreme Court of Appeal (Oct 2022 – Nov 2022)
Gender: Woman
Ethnicity: African
Date of Birth: June 1965
Qualifications: BA (1987), LLB (1990)(UWC), LLM (20030(Cardiff University, UK)

Key judgments:

Candidate Biography | Updated May 2024

Judge Gloria Nozuko Mjali is a judge of the Eastern Cape High Court, Mthatha.

After matriculating Mjali pursued a BA (Law) and LLB degrees at the University of the Western Cape (1987 and 1990 respectively). But while completing the latter degree, she also started working as a public prosecutor in the district courts, where she cut her teeth from 1989 to 1991.

Mjali was promoted to state advocate in late 1991, and would spend the next five years prosecuting complex crimes in the Mthatha High Court, notorious for its frighteningly high crime rates relative to its rural town status.

From 1996 – 2003 she served as senior state advocate. She took a break to pursue an LLM at the University of Cardiff in the UK and, upon her return, joined the Special Investigating Unit as a legal representative investigating corruption and maladministration in the Eastrn Cape.

From 2008 Mjali was recruited into the still pioneering Aspirant Women Judges programme run by the SA Judicial Education Institute. Led by senior and retired judges, the programme provides intensive skills training for aspirant judges and then places them in acting positions as high court divisions across the country. The programme was designed to boost the number of women who would be ready for permanent judicial appointment. Mjali attended the year-long programme from June 2008 to May 2009, and was given acting appointments at the Northern Cape High Court (July 2009 – May 2010) and the Land Claims Court (Jun to Oct 2010).

Mjali was appointed a permanent judge in October 2010 and placed at the Mthatha High Court.

As a judge Mjali has written several judgments, particularly in criminal law. She wrote the reported judgment in Kholiso v State, in which a traditional healer was arrested in her chemist for being in possession of two vulture’s feet, which she intended to use in making medicines, but in contravention of the Transkei Environmental Conservation Decree (9 of 1992), which only applied to sections of the Eastern Cape that were part of the apartheid Bantustan.

Ms Kholiso, the traditional healer, challenged the constitutional validity of the decree for imposing criminal punishment to people in one part of the Eastern Cape but not in other parts of the same province. After analysing the law, Mjali found that different criminal sanctions amounted to unfair discrimination and were therefore constitutionally invalid. She set aside Ms Kholisa’s sentence and conviction.

Mjali served as an acting judge of the Supreme Court of Appeal for brief stint between October and November 2022. While there, she wrote the judgment in Spagni v National Director of Public Prosecutions, a case in which a local cryptocurrency developer known as ‘Fluffypony’ in tech circles faced extradition to the United States on fraud charges. Although he initially consented to the extradition and waived his right to a hearing, he later turned around and challenged the extradition in court on technical grounds, including that he was not legally represented when he consented. All of these were dismissed by the high court.

On appeal to the SCA, he sought to introduce new evidence to bolster his case but by then he had already been extradited to the US. Mjali wrote the unanimous judgment (concurred in by 4 other judges) dismissing Spagni’s case on the grounds of mootness.

In their letters nominating Mjali for appointment to the Supreme Court of Appeal, both the SA Women Lawyers Association and the Wild Coast Attorneys’ Association commend Mjali’s odd-defying career in the legal profession. However, Mjali’s limited appellate experience and paucity of reported judgments raise serious questions about her readiness for the Supreme Court of Appeal, a court in which she will sit in review of the work of her judicial colleagues and provide guidance on broad areas of the law.

SCA Interview | May 2024

In May 2024 Judge Mjali was interviewed by the JSC for a position on the Supreme Court of Appeal.

Judge Mjali’s interview was the worst interview of the day – even worse than her October 2023 interview. The Chief Justice asked her why she had selected the cases she listed in the questionnaire, as “her most significant cases”; as the reasons stated did not fully explain their significance, nor mention the legal issue, the reasoning or the conclusion. In fact she said, the only significance she could identify in the first case selected, was that Judge Mjali had managed to convince dissenting colleagues to agree with and adopt her opinion. Delivering a unanimous judgement.
Judge Mjali’s replied that it showed her independent mind, and that she did not feel it necessary to elaborate on her reasoning, as the commissioners could read it all in the application attachments.

When the commissioners pressed her further on the issue of significance, she stood firm in her answer. For her, the significance of a case, was rooted in its reflection of her independent mindedness and character.
Judge Mjali’s interview was unsuccessful.

SCA Interview Synopsis | October 2023

Judge Gloria Nozuko Mjali’s October 2023 interview for a position on the Supreme Court of Appeal was unsuccessful.

In his first salvo, SCA Deputy President Petse asked why there was a delay in Mjali starting her appointment as judge in the Eastern Cape High Court (she was appointed 31 on 31 October 2010 but only started in the second term of 2011 – around May).

Mjali explained the circumstances of her late start, including that: the judge president said he had no work for her; that she was still on contract in the Land Claims Court and would need to finalise work there. The interview went downhill from there.

Petse’s second issue was Mjali’s decision to go and act in the SCA while she had part-heard criminal trials, and how this affects the rights of accused persons. took to finalis on bail on time, and how this violates the accused’ persons rights.  Mjali emphasised that she ensured that all accused were out on bail before she left for Bloemfontein. “However, with criminal cases, in rural areas there are several issues that cause delays in criminal trials like loadshedding effects, and the lack of recording equipment,” Mjali added.

On questions whether it was too soon for Mjali to apply for promotion to the SCA, considering that she had only acted for one term, she said “section 174 of the Constitution does not require a long acting stint… it is not a requirement but a preference”. She added that she has been a judge for 14 years, and in that period she has grown, and penned judgements which have been confirmed by the Constitutional Court. She was not appointed.