Justice Zukisa Tshiqi
“Any child, given the opportunity and resources, has the ability to succeed.”
Justice Zukisa Tshiqi gained experience as an attorney having practised for 14 years before becoming a judge in 2005. She is an activist for constitutional transformation, which is evident in the work she does with the Regional Judges Forum that deals with issues such as human rights, gender, TB prevention, and HIV awareness.
Early Life and Career
Zukisa Laurah Lumka Tshiqi was born on 11 January 1961 in Qingana, a small area in the Eastern Cape. Tshiqi views her father as a contributor to her resolve to work hard as his drive influenced her life and subsequent determination.
She studied at the University of the Witwatersrand where she obtained a B Proc degree in 1989, and an Advanced Diploma in Labour Law from Rand Afrikaans University (now University of Johannesburg) in 2001. She was a legal coordinator of the South African Council of Churches from 1986 to 1989. In 1991 she completed her articles of clerkship at Neluheni Attorneys of Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal and was subsequently admitted as an attorney of the High Court.
Tshiqi was appointed as a Professional Assistant at Matlala Attorneys in Gauteng in 1991, where she worked on a broad spectrum of legal matters. In 1992 she was appointed as the Litigation Officer and Trial Advocacy Trainer of the Black Lawyers Associations. From 1994 to 2005 she operated her own legal practice while simultaneously working as a Senior Commissioner of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and the Bargaining Councils.
Tshiqi is a qualified trainer, facilitator, and mediator, and trains on an ad hoc basis for the South African Judicial Institute.
I remember how overwhelmed I was when I first went to the Motion Court full of counsel, some standing on their feet. But I managed that Motion Court role as difficult as it was. And, I also learned that even though one does not have time, one would have to find time to write judgments as quickly as possible and as clearly as possible. The other exposure that I got was when I had to now sit on appeals. Remember, as a sole practitioner I was sort of responsible for running my own practice. I realised there that I had to work with other colleagues and work well with other colleagues.
From 2003 to 2004 she was an Acting Judge of the High Court and the Labour Court. In 2005 she was appointed as a Judge of the High Court. In 2007 she became Acting Judge at the Competition Appeal Court and in 2009 she was appointed as a Judge of the Supreme Court of Appeal where she presided over many matters for 10 years before her appointment to the Constitutional Court.
I also learned at the Supreme Court of Appeal that it helps to expose one’s self-ignorance. Because, if you sit in your small corner, you do not learn. Whereas if you go to other colleagues, they actually broaden and enrich your knowledge about a matter, about issues in a matter, and actually about your judgment as well.
Appointment to the Constitutional Court
Tshiqi was appointed to the Constitutional Court in 2019, and regards her appointment as an honour and a privilege.
I am guided by human dignity, accountability, transparency and equality. So, all those issues that are in the Constitution, those are my guiding principles. Because at the end of the day, I have to adjudicate without fear, favour and prejudice. And, what guides me is the Constitution. I try to stay away from taking a stance that would be popular, but not guided by the law or the Constitution.
Judgments of Interest
City Power (Pty) Ltd v Grinpal Energy Management Services (Pty) Ltd and Others (2015)
City Power awarded a tender to Grinpal for the supply of prepaid metering electricity systems in Alexandra Township. When the original tender contracts between City Power and Grinpal lapsed in 2010, the two companies entered into additional service delivery agreements for the installation of more prepaid meters and the maintenance of meters previously installed.
This stood until 2012, when City Power informed Grinpal that it was terminating the contracts with immediate effect as Grinpal had allegedly submitted a fraudulent tax certificate. Despite Grinpal disputing the validity of the cancellation, the parties eventually decided to terminate the contracts and agreed that City Power would render the electricity services until a new service provider was appointed, using Grinpal’s infrastructure. City Power effectively took over Grinpal. However, while City Power took over the operation, it refused to take transfer of Grinpal’s employees, in terms of the Labour Relations Act (LRA).
Grinpal referred the matter to the Labour Court, because – in terms of the LRA – its business had been transferred as a going concern which meant that City Power was automatically supposed to take over its employees upon termination of the service delivery agreement.
Then Acting Justice Tshiqi, in a unanimous judgment, held that City Power is a municipal entity governed by the Municipal Systems Act, but this does not exempt it from the operation of the transfer provisions of the LRA. She concluded that there had been a transfer of a business as a going concern and, consequently, City Power automatically took over the employees.
The employment contracts are automatically transferred together with the business. This happens by operation of law. The person to whom the business is transferred replaces the employer in terms of the contracts of employment and assumes all obligations of the previous employer. The new employer also acquires the contractual rights of the previous employer.
Family and Personal Life
Tshiqi is married and has three children.
In the Words of Others
We all are familiar with leaders that enjoy speaking. However, Justice Tshiqi is a leader that listens. She listens to the other judges, to counsel and the clerks, but mainly she tries to listen to those usually not given a voice.
It is inspiring to work alongside Justice Tshiqi. It is inspiring to acknowledge the hardships she has gone through and to consider where she is now. It is inspiring what she symbolises for women, and men in this country. And it is inspiring to be able to share ideas with someone as talented. Yet, even when she is standing in this privileged position, Justice Tshiqi doesn’t take long to make you feel her warm personality. I remember one of the first things she asked was, ‘how do you say ‘good morning’ in Spanish? I would like to greet you in your language’.