Former finance ombud Noluntu Bam impresses JSC panellists with CV
A former ombud in the financial services industry with more than 18 years’ experience in the post was interviewed for one of the vacant positions in the Gauteng division of the high court.
Noluntu Bam, who boasts a diverse career in commercial law, impressed the judicial service commissioners with her string of qualifications which range from an LLB to an MBA and a scarce qualification of a master’s degree in tax law.
However, she had only practised as a lawyer between 1998 and 2001.
She came back into practice in 2018 but only as a consultant where she shared legal opinion in a firm.
She has held an acting judge position since 2019.
Asked why she left mainstream practice after just three years, Bam said it wasn’t by choice.
She said when the law firm in which she was employed shut down, she had to pursue interests which would ensure she was financially stable to support those about her, having had during that time lost her last surviving parent.
Judge president Dunstan Mlambo highlighted how what Bam lacked in court appearance experience she made up for in her qualifications and other experience.
“At first brush, one would think you have lost touch with practice but your answers show you haven’t,” Mlambo said.
In her student years, Bam was a student of the incumbent Supreme Court of Appeal justice Mandisa Maya.
Maya said she was impressed by Bam’s qualifications and quizzed her on her achievements.
Bam said they came with hard work and dedication, adding that she had looked up to the likes of Maya.
She was the first candidate interviewed among those vying for one of 10 seats in the Gauteng high court bench. Other seasoned acting judges include advocate Cassim Moosa, who has been interviewed for the position several times.
Moosa has spent more than 168 weeks as an acting judge.
He said he had somewhat given up his own practice as he had given himself to fully serving the judiciary.
Advocate Allyson Crutchfield SC is also being interviewed for the position, having being unsuccessful in previous attempts. Her interview came after Bam’s.
Crutchfield faced tough questions from acting chief justice Raymond Zondo about why it took her 23 years to apply for silk. She said at the time she was discouraged as there were very few women who were silk when she started her practice.
Zondo said she should have put in her application if she believed she was deserved it.
Crutchfield said she was comfortable with her practice at that point. Quizzed further by another commissioner on this point, Crutchfield conceded she was discouraged.
“You do lose confidence. You feel overlooked and undermined,” she said, alluding to the fact that she had applied for silk status before and was rejected.
“You end up delaying applying and you are told you are not ready. There were structural impediments at that stage. They still exist but not to a great extent,” she said, adding that the type of cases she was given then did not allow the bar to consider her for silk.
She told the panellists she has tried to ensure she opens doors for other women.
The interviews continue.