Aspirant Women Judges Programme aims to afford women the same opportunities as their male counterparts

February 13th, 2023

Chief Justice Raymond Zondo with the candidates that were selected for the Aspirant Women Judges Programme. The launch of the programme was held on 25 January 2023 at the Office of the Chief Justice.

On 25 January 2023, the South African Judicial Education Institute (SAJEI), held a launch of the Aspirant Women Judges Programme. The launch was held at the Office of the Chief Justice in Midrand. The programme, which will be a yearlong programme, will include –

  • in person lectures;
  • training components; and
  • a mentorship component.

Fifteen women will participate in the programme. The women, with over 12 years’ experience in the legal profession, were identified through a rigorous process. These women are namely, magistrates and legal practitioners (attorneys and advocates). The programme will be led by retired Justice Phineas Mojapelo.

Speaking at the launch, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, said that he was excited about the launch of the programme. He pointed out that the programme has been delayed for a long time, that the programme took place back in 2007, during the term of office of Minister of Justice Brigitte Mabandla, and when the Chief Justice was Justice Pius Langa. He pointed out that the programme is intended to give intensive training, skills, experience, and knowledge that would assist aspirant women judges to reach a point where they could be considered for appointment as judges.

Chief Justice Zondo pointed out that the programme is needed because South Africa – like many other countries – has a history of denying women the same opportunities afforded to men. He said they have recognised that unless something is done, women are denied opportunities, which are available to men. He added that programmes such as the Aspirant Women Judges Programme must be perused energetically and unapologetically. He said that men must play a very important role, because it is men in society who have denied women opportunities.

Chief Justice Zondo, added that some of the candidates who took part in the 2007 programme went on to be appointed as judges of the High Court and some the Supreme Court of Appeal. Noting the success of the programme, he said during the 2007 programme, 21 candidates were in the programme of which 12 of those candidates are now judges. Chief Justice Zondo paid tribute to Ms Mabandla, who he said, ‘spearheaded the programme’.

Although it took 15 years for the second programme of aspirant women judges to take place, Chief Justice Zondo said that SAJEI should have other programmes like this one. He added that serious efforts were made for the current programme because the first programme was a success. He pointed out that one of the serious challenges hindering the programme was the issue of funding, which resulted in delays in the past.

Chief Justice Zondo expressed his and the judiciary’s appreciation to the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, and his Deputy Minister John Jeffery, for their support for the programme. He added that he would also like to thank the President for playing his part in making sure that Justice Mojapelo be the lead coordinator for the programme. ‘I think going forward we need to honour Ms Mabandla by calling this programme the Brigitte Mabandla Aspirant Women Judges Programme, because she played such a critical role,’ Chief Justice Zondo said.

Chief Justice Zondo pointed out that after the candidates have completed the programme, Justice Mojapelo and his colleagues will look at the progress reports of candidates doing the programme to see which ones they believe have benefitted properly. He, however, pointed out that it does not necessarily mean once a candidate is successful after the programme, they are now entitled to be appointed as a judge. He said what it does mean is that one is equipped with skills that should place them in a position to be favourably considered to be appointed as a judge, adding that the candidates will still compete with other candidates who are not on the programme.

Candidates will be trained by members of the judiciary and training will be on various branches of the law in terms of theory and practice.

Kgomotso Ramotsho Cert Journ (Boston) Cert Photography (Vega) is the news reporter at De Rebus.