Judge President Mahube Molemela has described her shock at finding some cold and unfriendly colleagues at the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) when she acted as a judge in that court last year. Molemela is one of nine candidates being interviewed by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) for three positions at the SCA.
Some judges who have had acting stints at the SCA described an unwelcoming environment there. When asked by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng how she found her time at the SCA last year‚ Molemela said her experience was a mixed bag. “There were colleagues who were going out of their way to make us feel welcome. Unfortunately, there were colleagues who were cold and unfriendly,” said Molemela. She recounted an incident during the recess when she went to the chambers of a permanent judge she knew and introduced herself. Molemela said the judge concerned was cordial.
“At the beginning of the term‚ I was walking around the passages and saw him approaching. I greeted him and he didn’t greet‚” said Molemela. Mogoeng suggested that maybe he did not hear her. Molemela said to herself she would make sure that next time she met him‚ she would be loud enough. “Next time I greeted him and he did not respond. I said to him maybe you do not remember me.
He said ‘Yes, I know you,’ and walked on.” Saying the incident really bothered her‚ Molemela said she had gone to another colleague who had recently been appointed in the same court and explained what had happened to her. "She said don’t worry. He does that to me as well‚” said Molemela. When asked what could be done to improve the court’s environment‚
Molemela said perhaps fostering collegiality by encouraging colleagues to interact informally could help. She said judges in the Free State High Court had agreed to meet in the tea room for lunch every Wednesday. “You bring your own lunchbox‚ and we just sit together and chat. Not everybody attends as others need to attend to something. The vast majority of the colleagues are attending. You look forward to a session like that‚” she said. Mogoeng expressed concern about Molemela’s experiences. “Maybe we should find a way to know them.”