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JUDGE JOSEPH JAMELA MHLAMBI

Capacity: Judge 
First appointed as a judge: 20-01-2017 (Free State High Court)
Gender: Male
Ethnicity: African
Date of Birth: 28 September 1956

Key judgments: 

Candidate bio: 

At the height of apartheid segregation, when black lawyers were severely restricted on which geographic locations and fields of law they could practice in, Judge Joseph Mhlambi braved the segregation laws and opened an attorneys’ firm in the heart of the Welkom CBD, in the Free State Goldfields. This example was followed by other black lawyers who joined him in later years.

Mhlambi started from humble beginnings, when he worked as a taxi driver at his hometown of Welkom, later joing the departments of health and justice as clerk and court interpreter. His legal career began when he joined attorneys firm Andrews and Podbielski as a candidate attorney in 1984, rising through the ranks to later establishing his own law firm in 1989, and finally partnering with his old firm to establish Podbielski Mhlambi in 2003, where he served as director until 2012. He broke off to reestablish how own firm from 2012 until 2016, when he was permanently appointed as a judge.

Mhlambi has written a number of interesting judgments, including in Residents of Moodraai Farm, Sasolburg v Metsimaholo Municipality, an eviction case that dealt with whether a municipality can preemptively evict people who are yet to occupy municipal land, Mhlambi found that the municipality could not get such an eviction order. In Maluti-a-Phofung Municipality v Eskom Holdings, Mhlambi found that Eskom could not attach even a highly-indebted municipality’s bank accounts without following the intergovernmental relations framework set out in the law.

Mhlambi holds a B.Proc law degree and certificates in Business Rescue Law and Practice, and Corporate Law, which he all obtained at Unisa.

October 2016 JSC Interview

October 2016 Interview Synopses

Attorney Joseph Mhlambi was recommended for appointment to the Free State High Court Bench following a reasonably stress-free interview.

One of the few speed bumps he encountered along this on-ramp to the judicial highway involved an initial difficulty in describing his “judicial philosophy”. Originally asked this by Advocate Mike Hellens SC, Mhlambi responded that it was “to give effect to the Constitution”.

Mogoeng intervened to enquire as to Mhlambi’s understanding of the question. Hellens rephrased it to include how the candidate saw his function as a judge and the “things that drive you” in delivering justice.

Mhlambi said his understanding of his place as a judge in a Constitutional state, meant that he wanted to give effect to Constitutional values like treating people equally, fairly and independently, while recognising that the document “reigned supreme”.

Later, feeling that Hellens’ question had been inadequately answered, Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema pushed Mhlambi for a clearer response. The attorney said his role as a judge was to ensure that what had happened before the advent of South Africa’s democracy would not happen again.

He otherwise dealt easily with questions about his understanding of the separation of powers doctrine and his experiences of acting in various high courts and ability to write judgments clearly and promptly.

Recalling his having worked his way up from a court interpreter, Mhlambi said these experiences meant he understood almost all aspects of the court system.

When it was pointed out that he was a member of the ANC, Mhlambi assured the commission that he would resign from the party if appointed, and likewise from the businesses where he was registered as a director.