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Born leader Thoba Poyo-Dlwati gets JSC nod for KZN judge president

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The Judicial Services Commission has recommended judge Thoba Poyo-Dlwati be appointed judge president of KwaZulu-Natal.

If the recommendation is approved by President Cyril Ramaphosa, she will become the first permanently-appointed woman judge president in the country.

At 48 years old, she will also be one of the youngest in a leadership position.

She was appointed as a judge eight years ago and, for the past six months, has been acting as the deputy judge president in the division.

At her earlier interview, she disputed suggestions she was too young or inexperienced for the job.

She said she was a “born leader” and during her six months in the deputy job, she had “led by example”.

“I was visible. I allocated (court) work to myself and I was available to my colleagues. I know the challenges they face.

“I will be inclusive … I  will consult but I will make the decisions,” she said.

The JSC does not give reasons for its decisions but the deliberations took only about half an hour.

During the earlier interview of present acting judge president Isaac Madondo, concerns were raised about the fact he would retire in a year.

He repeatedly said he had a succession plan, but that it would be in the best interests of the division, and to maintain stability, for him to be given the job.

Madondo also suffered a reputation crisis when in April this year, as the sole contender for the leadership position, he was not recommended for appointment because of alleged “homophobic comments” in a Christian book he self-published.

He told commissioners  on Friday he had subsequently removed the chapter and attended a diversity court in case he had any “unconscious bias”.

He suggested the JSC would be “cutting its throat to spite its face” — “kicking out an experienced driver and putting in a learner” and “taking the food out of the pot before time” — by not recommending him for the position.

The third candidate, judge Esther Steyn, a former prosecutor, magistrate, and UCT lecturer, was appointed as a judge in 2009.

While her seniority to Poyo-Dlwati would have counted in her favour, the fact she is white, and cannot speak isiZulu, would not have.

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