Judge Molemela

Madam Justice Mahube Betty Molemela


Judge President: High Court of South Africa (Free State Division)
Judge: Labour Appeal Court of South Africa
Acting Justice: Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa
Chancellor: Central University of Technology, Bloemfontein

Academic Background

Military Law Certificate (Thaba Phatswa) 2004
LLM (UFS) 2002
Business Management Diploma (Buckinghamshire Chilterns) 2001
LLB (UFS) 2000
Labour Law Advanced Diploma (UJ) 1998
Conveyancer Certificate of Admission (Law Society) 1996
Notary Certificate of Admission (Law Society) 1996
Attorney Certificate of Admission (Law Society) 1993
BProc (UFS) 1992
BA (UFH) 1986


How did your university experience prepare you for your current career?

I studied in very difficult circumstances under apartheid rule, with all its limitations for black people. Back then, interrupted academic years became an expected part of university life due to uprisings against Bantu Education, among others. We frequently had no access to the university library whenever classes were suspended. Bearing in mind that there was no Internet during that era, those were indeed very challenging times for law students as the ability to research cases was severely hampered. I was able to overcome all those adversities and managed to obtain several degrees, mainly through part-time studies. My university experience cultivated a culture of yearning to know more and continuously striving to “sharpen the saw” in order to be at the cutting edge in respect of all developments in the legal field.

Which characteristics or skills are essential for the workplace?

Being a judge is a very demanding job and there are times when our relationships (with family members and close friends) and our work schedule become competing priorities. It is for that reason that juggling family life with the demands of our job is a very essential skill, because we cannot be effective in our work without the support of our families. The other essential skills are impartiality, honesty, diligence, courtesy, sensitivity, compassion, perseverance, patience, punctuality, resilience, courage, decisiveness, attention to detail, good listening skills, a good memory, the ability to work as part of a team, and the willingness to learn new things. Staying in touch with the modern-day lifestyle and trends is also very important, more so for trial judges. Last but not least, there is no substitute for hard work. Trawling through volumes and volumes of court records is the order of the day. And once you have done that, you have to be ready to trawl through volumes and volumes of records the next day and the day thereafter. That’s the nature of a judge’s work: unforgiving and relentless. 

Which part of your job is the most satisfying?

Due to the wide variety of disputes we as judges have to adjudicate, we are in a privileged position of acquiring expeditious expertise on a wide range of technical areas, from science to religion. What I find most satisfying is not only the in-depth exposure to the technical areas of every discipline but the ability to understand these technical areas well enough to express views that resonate with the experts in those various fields.   

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Erasing images of badly injured or deceased victims of crime from my mind; they haunt me until that particular case has been finalised. I also find being courteous to openly disrespectful legal practitioners and litigants very challenging. That’s when I realise that I am far from being a saint.

How has your job affected your life and the lives of others?

Most humans have an innate sense of justice. As judges we have the unique privilege of fulfilling parts of people’s sense of justice. We play a role in the development of justice: we interpret the law, assess evidence, and pass judgments which set a precedent. Our work has a direct impact on people and it helps to preserve the moral fibre of our society. I find this very fulfilling. The downside is that the demands of the job rob you of precious family time and expose you and your family members to possible harm by disgruntled litigants. Furthermore, very often, your family members do not have the freedom of openly expressing their views on certain sensitive topics, for fear of such views being indirectly attributed to you.

Why should students consider a career in this sector?

There will always be a need for judges because of social attrition. The reality is that not every lawyer aspires to become a judge. I encourage law students and young lawyers to consider this career path and to be intentional about their career choice. I think that if one approaches one’s career with the knowledge that she or he intends to be a judge, one will be in a better position to structure one's career in a way that ensures that one obtains most of the skills that are needed to become a good judge.

Name three things you wish you’d been told as a university student.

  • That in the bigger scheme of things, what matters most in life is what you eventually achieve, and not the date of the achievement. The pressure to achieve everything in record time is so unnecessary. It exposes us to stress which eventually compromises our health. I wish it could have been emphasised that there is nothing more important than our good health - that’s our principle capital asset.
  • That experience must be experienced, it cannot be taught; failure is part of that experience and is therefore useful. You will have to be able to forgive yourself for your mistakes, provided of course that you learn from them.
  • That no matter how important our careers may be, we must always set aside quality time to be with our families. Life is ongoing and special moments do not wait for that perfect time when you have achieved that coveted position.

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