Madima has a varied career history which includes working as a freelance journalist at the Lebowa Times, an academic at the University of South Africa, researcher the Centre for Applied Legal Studies and chief legal advisor for Transnet.
He obtained a B.Juris from the University of the North and holds two degrees from the University of Essex in the United Kingdom: an LLM and a Doctor of Philosophy in Law. Admitted to the Cape Bar in August 1994, Madima was conferred silk in 2011.
He has acted at the South Gauteng and Western Cape high courts and previously appeared before the Judicial Service Commission in 2008 and in 2016. He is the first black silk to to be appointed by Judge President Dunstan Mlambo to act in that division.
October 2017 Interview:
October 2017 – Interview synopsis:
The existence of racism in the legal profession and the judiciary dominated Advocate Takalani Madima’s interview.
In response to a question by Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe regarding racism, Madima first noted that there is “racism everywhere” including the legal profession and he suggested that the “carrot and the stick approach should be invoked… White firms should be forced to engage black practitioners.”
“I have acted in Cape Town, Pretoria and Johannesburg and I cannot say that I have seen my white colleagues being openly racist,” he added.
A response that did not go down too well with both Hlophe and Justice Minister Michale Masutha. Masutha said he was “not satisfied” with Madima’s analysis and that he was “not being candid” about racism with the commission.
Madima retorted that it would be reductive to only blame large white firms’ apparent racism for not exposing black lawyers to more varied work and subsequently assisting in transforming the fraternity: “How do we explain the State Attorney not briefing black juniors?… The majority of state attorneys in Cape Town are black and we know that the state is the biggest litigant in the country.”
That, asserted Madima, was the “contradiction” of racism in the legal fraternity.
Hlophe, recalling when Madima had been denied silk because of alleged racism in the Western Cape Bar, said that he found “it alarming that you would deny it [racism] today.”
“I must correct you,” responded Madima, “the people who opposed my silk application were black, they were not white — that is the complication.”
When the matter of reserved judgments cropped up early on in Madima’s interview, he conceded that the matter (he had a judgment reserved for 12 months), which had proved a stumbling block in his previous interview before the JSC, was a “perpetual source of embarrassment for me”.
He assured the commission that such tardiness “did not recur and will not recur” if appointed.
Responding to a question about what he would bring to the judiciary, Madima ,who is also a legal academic and adjunct professor at the University of Cape Town, said: “I’m adequately qualified. I’ll be bringing scholarship to the Bench… My appointment will instil confidence in the judiciary.”
Commenting on his perseverance in interviewing again — his third appearance before the JSC — Madima said he was not dissuaded from his previous failure to be appointed since becoming a judge was “the highest calling” and “a job that comes with enormous responsibility”. He told the commission that if he were unsuccessful, he would be returning for another interview.
October 2016 interview:
October 2016 – Interview synopsis:
Gauteng Judge President Dunstan Mlambo noted that Madima was the “second Black Silk” he had appointed to the division during his tenure — which is telling.
Madima’s record as an acting judge, however, was scrutinised by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) after it emerged that he had reserved judgments for as long as 12 months — of which both Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and the JSC have a dim view.
Advocate Mike Hellens SC said he was “troubled” by the lengthy delays and asked Madima “why delayed judgments are wrong?” Madima admitted that “justice delayed is justice denied”.
Commissioner Narend Singh expressed “concern” at Madima having earlier admitted that while serving as an acting judge, “your mind is elsewhere”. Madima responded that, while acting, “it is not possible to not think about your practise” because one is receiving “calls all the time” — he maintained that a sitting judge could focus solely on adjudication because it was the only job they had.
This was also picked up by the Economic Freedom Fighters Julius Malema who asked what difference Madima apparently saw between the job of an acting judge and a permanently appointed one. Madima said the “difference was not fatal” and that when an acting judge was in their chambers and “performing the function of a judge” it was “inevitable” that “half your mind is elsewhere [on one’s practise].”
Malema took great umbrage with the fact that Madima appeared “a half-minded judge, listening to [litigants] with a half-mind” and wondered aloud whether this proved a disservice to the interests of justice.
Commissioner Thoko Didiza asked Madima what recommendations he could offer to alleviate this situation where acting judges also had to deal with issues pertaining to their practise.
Madima suggested that if acting judges were given two days in the week to solely write judgments, it would alleviate the workload. With perhaps too much honesty, Madima admitted the workload at the North and South Gauteng benches didn’t allow for “breathing space” and that he would probably still have reserved judgments when he retired.
Madima’s list of business interests caught the attention of the commission. Malema quizzed him on whether it was appropriate for a judge’s wife to have business interests and Madima eventually conceded that this was inappropriate.