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Judge Mokgere Busisiwe Shareen Masipa

Capacity: Judge
First appointed as judge: 1 July 2016 (KwaZulu Natal High Court, Durban)
Gender: Woman
Ethnicity: Black
Date of Birth: March 1974
Qualifications: B. Proc (Limpopo)(1996), LLB (1998), LLM (2015)(UKZN)

Key Judgements:

Candidate Biography | Updated October 2023

Judge Mokgere Masipa is a judge of the KwaZulu-Natal High Court (not to be confused with Judge Thokozile Masipa).

Born in booming mining town of Mogalakwena, Masipa spent her formative years in Limpopo, including studying for her initial B.Proc law degree at the then University of the North (now Limpopo) in 1996. She would later relocate to Durban to study for her LLB and LLM degrees at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, a province she would later permanently settle in.

Masipa’s lifelong relationship with the courts began during her 2-year stint as a Judges’ Associate in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court from 1998. From 2000 she served as a candidate attorney at Durban law firm Anand Nepaul Attorneys, a firm she would later serve as attorney and director from 2004, but now under the name Masipa-Nepaul Inc. In 2007 she took off on her own and founded the firm Masipa Inc.

A labour lawyer by specialisation, Masipa has extensive experience in the labour dispute resolution system. She served as part-time commissioner on the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) from 2004 to 2016, and as an arbitrator at several industry bargaining councils including for the motor, local government, public health, chemical, education, and public safety industries, among others. An accredited mediator, she also served as a panellist on the Tokiso Dispute Resolution Panel (2008 – 2016) and on the National Homebuilders Regulatory Council (2009 – 2011).

Masipa was elevated to the KwaZulu-Natal High Court bench in July 2016, after initially serving as an assessor in murder trials, and five terms as an acting judge.

As a high court judge Masipa has five reported judgments to her name, including the ground-breaking judgment in NM v John Wesley School. When a father was unable to pay private school fees for their child, the school decided to terminate the parent contracts and remove the child from the school, after initially isolating them in the art room. After a preliminary high court order returning the child to the school to sit for their exams, Masipa was then called upon to decide whether the child should remain at the school.

After analysing constitutional principles on children’s best interests, the right to basic education, and provisions of the South African Schools Act, Masipa found that the school acted unreasonably. She held that, while the school had a right in terms of the parent contract to recover school fees, it could not do so through humiliating and excluding the child, or not following a fair procedure.

“The exclusion policy as a result of non-payment of school fees in so far as it is applied by the first respondent results in a standard inferior to that which is applicable in public education…  It is clearly contrary to public policy and is aimed at humiliating, degrading and victimising learners…  The suggestion that it was a reasonable and justifiable means…is devoid of any merit. It is unjustifiable and infringes on the rights in both sections 28(2) and 29(3) of the Bill of Rights. It is thus unconstitutional and falls to be declared as invalid.”

Masipa gained valuable appellate experience through acting in the Supreme Court of Appeal (June 2022 to May 2023) and the Competition Appeal Court (January – December 2022).

While acting in the SCA, Masipa co-wrote two judgments, and single-authored the Louw v Patel judgment on behalf of the court. She wrote the dissenting judgment in MEC: North West Education v Foster, where she disagreed with 4 other judges over the High Court’s evaluation of the evidence and the law.

Masipa was previously a member of the KwaZulu-Natal Law Society, (2002 – 2016), the Black Lawyers’ Association (2011 – 2016). She is currently an examiner for the law society’s attorneys’ admission exams (since 2015) and a member of the SA Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges (since 2016).

While Masipa was a labour law specialist in her attorneys’ practice, she has proven to be a judge with broad interests and experience, having written reported judgments in criminal law, constitutional law, and family law. While her dissenting judgment against four senior SCA judges proves her independent-mindedness (which is essential for appellate courts), her relative paucity in sole-authored judgments in the SCA might prove to be a disadvantage.

October 2023 interview

Judge Mokgere Masipa’s October 2023 interview for a position on the Supreme Court of Appeal was unsuccessful. She was not nominated for appointment.

April 2016 interview

Interview Synopsis:

Masipa was nominated for appointment by the commission despite leaving murky the details of a complaint lodged against her during her interview.

The complaint, which is being appealed, related an apparent confusion when her client did not arrive in court. Instead of withdrawing as an attorney of the court on the grounds that she did not have instructions, Masipa withdrew the application and tendered costs. She also faced complaints related to failing to comply with a court directive and a failure to supervise a candidate attorney.

Responding to questions about the challenges that female lawyers face within the fraternity, Masipa recounted events that underlined the entrenched patriarchy that exists.

Describing it as a “difficult environment” she said attempts to tackle the problem of black female practitioners not being briefed had proved unsuccessful despite approaches to both the State Attorney’s office and the private sector — as an individual and through organisations — with the latter being “even worse” in its intransigence to employ female lawyers.

Asked by KZN Premier Senzo Mchunu for a “specific instance” Masipa described an “instance that never escapes my mind” when sitting as an arbitrator. She had entered the boardroom early and sat down, whereafter the attorneys entered and “ignored me, they didn’t even greet me”.

“After a while, they asked me: ‘Are you the stenographer?’ I felt very humiliated,” said Masipa, later adding that incidents like these “do destroy the confidence of black female practitioners”.

While Masipa said she felt that the conduct of male lawyers appearing before her was often dismissive of her abilities and required that she “prove” herself to them, her gender did assist in dealing with cases involving rape and gender-based violence where survivors “felt relaxed” because the presiding officer was a woman.