The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has recommended Johannesburg high court judge Edwin Molahlehi to fill the long-vacant position of Deputy Judge President of both the Labour Court and Labour Appeal Court. The position has remained unoccupied for a staggering seven years.
Molahlehi emerged as the only candidate interviewed for this pivotal role and was recommended by the JSC on Wednesday.
Currently serving as a judge of the Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg, Molahlehi's holds extensive legal experience.
Before his tenure at the Gauteng High Court commenced in 2017, Molahlehi dedicated nearly a decade of service as a judge in the Labour Court.
Molahlehi's legal journey began in 2000, when he assumed the role of director for the Department of Labour's Employment Conditions Commission. Notably, he also held a key role as an acting judge in the Labour Court during this time.
However, he would be drawn to politics and government administration, becoming the first Executive Mayor of the new West Rand District municipality, which covered his hometown of Kagiso in Krugersdorp.
He left politics and returned to the labour dispute resolution domain in 2003. He held pivotal positions, including director of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA) and mediator roles in various dispute resolution panels.
The significant turning point in his career came in 2007, when he was appointed as a judge of the Labour Court.
As a judge, he wrote several judgment’s, including cases with corporate giants like telecoms company Vodacom in Vodacom vs National Commissioner: SAPS, and political giants like the president and former secretary general of the African National Congress in Magashule vs Ramaphosa.
One case that garnered considerable public attention was the Afriforum vs Economic Freedom Fighters case, where Molahlehi presided as the judge.
The case examined whether the song "Dubul' iBhunu," (‘Shoot the Boer’) featuring controversial lyrics constituted hate speech under the Equality Act.
Molahlehi's deliberations highlighted the delicate balance between constitutionally protected freedom of speech and constitutionally prohibited hate speech. Ultimately, he ruled that the historical and contextual background of the song meant it did not qualify as hate speech within the confines of the Equality Act, resulting in the dismissal of Afriforum's case.