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Judge Namhla Thina Siwendu

Capacity: Judge
First appointed as a judge:
20 Janury 2017 (Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg)
Further appointments: October 2019 (Special Tribunal)

Gender:  Female
Ethnicity: African
Date of Birth: July 1966

Key judgments: 

Candidate bio:  

Judge Thina Siwendu is a judge of the Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg and Pretoria). An attorney for 21 years, Siwendu’s illustrious career included working as a researcher at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at Wits University, an articled clerk at progressive law firm Cheadle Thompson & Haysom, and later joining the South African Law Reform Commission.

Siwendu is a corporate governance specialist and has sat on the boards of a number of major Blue Chip companies. She also holds a research fellowship at the Stellenbosch University Business School.

Siwendu was one of the first black women to successfully run her own commercial attorney’s firm, Siwendu & Partners Inc. from 1996 until 2012, when it merged with Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyer Inc – one of the ‘Big 5’ law firms in SA. In 2015, she formed part of the National Forum for the Transformation of the Legal Profession, which was  established to facilitate major reforms in the legal profession, and was the forerunner to the statutory Legal Practice Council.

In 2019 she gave Stellenbosch University’s Annual Africa Day Lecture titled “A Mother’s Reflection on Suicide Loss in Post-Apartheid South Africa” where she told of the pain of the tragic loss of her young son to suicide.  This drew on her residency at world-renowned Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela’s South African Research Chair in Violent Histories and Transgenerational Trauma at Stellenbosch.

Siwendu is one of the founding members of the revitalised Johannesburg Commercial Court, which sought to claw-back from private arbitration some of the large and complex commercial law cases necessary for the development of the law. In 2019 she was seconded by President Ramaphosa to the Special Tribunal, which is a specialised court set up to adjudicate cases meant to recover assets lost to the State through corruption and maladministration.

She holds B.Soc.Sci (Honours)(Social Work) degree from the University of Cape Town and an LLB from University of Natal (now UKZN).

 

October 2016 interview

Interview synopsis:

Asked by justice minister Michael Masutha why it was so difficult to attract and keep black women in positions within the judiciary, Siwendu suggested that “at the centre of [the reluctance] is money” as people were unwilling to give up lucrative careers or sign up to the Constitutional project and vision for South Africa.

Siwendu admitted that she sometimes struggled to write judgments, but that the delays did not accord with her personal values. She was also probed on her role at the SA Law Reform Commission and whether gender played any role in the adjudication of cases. She responded that it had and cited the Volks v Robinson matter which came before the Constitutional Court.

The matter, which dealt with the rights of the surviving spouse under the Maintenance Act, saw judges Yvonne Mokgoro and Kate O’Regan write a dissenting judgment which took a contextual approach in interpreting the Act’s provisions, while the majority judgment (by a majority male court) followed a contract law-based interpretation of the provisions.