Justice Steven Arnold Majiedt is a current Justice of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of South Africa. He was appointed in 2019, leaving his seat at the Supreme Court of Appeal, where he was first appointed in 2010. Prior to this, Justice Majiedt was an advocate at the Northern Cape Society of Advocates, before his first judicial appointment at the Northern Cape High Court in Kimberley in 2000.
Justice Majiedt’s practising career was characterised by significant political work, and his ethos is primarily centred on advocating for the voiceless. During Justice Majiedt’s time as a judge he has ruled on matters both complex and controversial – ranging from international criminal law to the interpretation of statutory licensing requirements.
Justice Majiedt was born in Kenhardt, a small town in the Northern Cape, to parents who were both educators. His father was an activist committed to liberation in the region. When he was eight years old, his father was appointed as the principal of a primary school, leading the family to relocate to Barkly West. He matriculated at William Pescod High School in 1978 and completed a BA(Law) in 1981 followed by an LLB in 1983, both from the University of the Western Cape.
In 1984, upon completing his LLB, Justice Majiedt hoped to practise as an attorney in Kimberly; however, he was unable to secure a position at a law firm to complete his articles necessary for admission as an attorney, mostly due to apparent discrimination on the part of White firms, only one of which granted him an interview. As such, Justice Majiedt decided to go to the Cape Bar and practise as an advocate. In 1984, he joined the Cape Bar and began work on the famous 5th floor of Huguenot Chambers. This floor was notoriously known as the “ANC/UDF” floor, due to the political alignment of the advocates which composed its ranks. Justice Majiedt worked here alongside the likes of Adv. Dullah Omar, who later became his mentor.
The same year that Justice Majiedt began practicing as an advocate, he was awarded the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to complete an LLM at Stanford University in the USA. Nonetheless, Adv. Dullar Omar advised him to stay; Justice Majiedt recalls Adv. Omar as saying, “you can’t go, we need young lawyers to fight in the trenches”. Again in 1987 Justice Majiedt received an offer to complete his LLM, this time at North Western University in Chicago, USA; again, he declined the offer, this time due to family reasons. Though Justice Majiedt admits he would have liked to have completed an LLM, he still maintains that he has no regrets for not taking up the offers at the time, concluding that he was able to learn instead from some of the greatest jurists in South African history and to make a modest contribution to the liberation struggle by defending many political activists.
Justice Majiedt later joined the Northern Cape Premier’s Office as the Chief Legal Adviser for the Province from 1997 until 1999, before leaving again for practice. In 2000, while one year back in practice as an advocate in the Northern Cape Society of Advocates, he was appointed as judge in the Northern Cape High Court where he worked for 10 years, until 2010. In 2010 he was appointed to the Supreme Court of Appeal and also acted for short stint at the Constitutional Court from January to May 2014. On 11 September 2019 was appointed by the President Cyril Ramaphosa to the Constitutional Court.
Justice Majiedt considers many of the highlights of his career to be the people with whom he has worked with. Notably, Justice Majiedt recalls that he learned much from working with anti-Apartheid activist, lawyer and minister, Adv. Dullah Omar. Adv. Omar, who worked just two chambers down from Justice Majiedt’s chambers during his time at Huguenot Chamber, and the two worked together on numerous cases, with Justice Majiedt considering Adv. Omar as one of his great mentors.
Likewise, Justice Majiedt recalls with fondness having worked closely as an advocate with judicial juggernauts such as the former Chief Justice of the Republic of South Africa, Arthur Chaskalson; the former Chief Justice of the Republic of South Africa, Ismail Mahomed; former Justice Thembile Skweyiya; the former Deputy Chief Justice of the Republic of South Africa, Dikgang Moseneke; former Judge President Bernard Ngoepe; and the former Chief Justice of the Republic of South Africa Pius Langa. Justice Majiedt attributes much of his experience to that which he gained from working with these individuals.
Another of Justice Majiedt’s career highlights was his role in having assisted in the holding of South Africa’s first free democratic elections in 1994, when he was asked to travel back to his home province, the Northern Cape for this purpose. Shortly thereafter, Justice Majiedt spent some time assisting in ensuring that the Northern Cape became operational as a Constitutional Province with the appropriate structures of governance, before returning back to his practice as an advocate.
Of course, Justice Majiedt’s appointments to the High Court in 2000, the Supreme Court of Appeal in 2010, and the Constitutional Court in 2019 are also some of the highlights of his career.
Ultimately, however, Justice Majiedt recalls,
“My greatest highlight was representing and defending people from all backgrounds and all walks of life during the liberation struggle. Not just the high-profile, high-media cases, but even those who were arrested for minor offences…”
National Commissioner of the South African Police Service v Southern African Human Rights Litigation Centre and Another  ZACC 30
This judgment concerned whether or not the South African Police Service had a duty in terms of South African domestic laws and international law, to investigate allegations of torture committed in Zimbabwe by the Zimbabwean police against civilians. Primarily, the judgment centred on South Africa’s obligations under international criminal law (particularly the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court) to undertake such investigations. In a unanimous judgment of the Constitutional Court, Justice Majiedt found that the implications of South Africa’s accession to the Rome Statute rendered an obligation on SAPS to investigate these grave allegations, noting:
“Our country’s international and domestic law commitments must be honoured. We cannot be seen to be tolerant of impunity for alleged torturers. We must take up our rightful place in the community of nations with its concomitant obligations. We dare not be a safe haven for those who commit crimes against humanity”.
Commissioner, SARS v MultiChoice Africa (218/10)  ZASCA 41 (29 March 2011)
This judgment concerned a highly technical matter surrounding the correct tariff classification of a particular model of digital satellite decoder under South Africa’s customs and excise framework. In particular, the parties contested the correct head of classification for the decoder, which was complicated due to the multiplicity of functions capable of being performed by that particular decoder. That the judgment achieved unanimity in the Supreme Court was impressive, particularly owing to the complexity of the matter.
Cool Ideas 1186 CC v Anne Christine Hubbard and Another  ZACC 16
In this case, the Constitutional Court, in following the leading judgment of Justice Majiedt, found that an arbitral award which was made in favour of an unlicensed building company should not be enforced. Traversing a multitude of areas of law, Justice Majiedt balanced principles of statutory interpretation, the law of arbitration (including international laws), criminal law, terms of licenses, contract law, and the Housing Consumers Protection Measures Act. For this judgment, Justice Majiedt secured the majority of the Court’s agreement, despite it being a highly contentious case which resulted in the production of an additional and nuanced concurring judgment, and a weighty dissent.
Family and Personal Life
Justice Majiedt is married to Rowena Mandy, who was a teacher before becoming a successful businesswoman. Justice Majiedt and his wife have a daughter, Corrine Mandy. Justice Majiedt and his family live in Johannesburg, though he enjoys travelling, both within South Africa and internationally. Both Justice Majiedt and his wife are avid golfers, though he admits that he wishes he was better at the sport.
Quotes from and about Justice Majiedt
“I believe that judges should always remember that they are mere mortals. They are human beings who are prone to mistakes and shortcomings just like any other person. For this reason, judges should always remain humble and remember too, that they are servants of the people, and never better than those people who they serve.” – Justice Majiedt
“My inclination will always be for the downtrodden, the oppressed, for the little guy. Because that’s how I grew up, that’s what shaped my whole philosophy as a young lawyer.” – Justice Majiedt
“Not once in more than 10 years have I come across a candidate about whom no one had a bad word to say. Until Majiedt.” – Franny Rabkin (News Editor, Mail & Guardian), following Justice Majiedt’s appointment to the Constitutional Court in 2019.
Justice Majiedt recounts, referring to his former workplace on the 5th Floor of the Huguenot Chambers, fondly known as the ‘ANC/UDF’ floor, that “One year there was a bomb scare, in 1986, and the guys sitting on the 14th or 15th floor said, ‘Just check if the fifth floor guys are there. If the fifth floor guys are there, it’s a hoax.”
Justice Majiedt traces his family name to a Muslim slave, who was brought from the Island of Java, Indonesia to the Cape in South Africa. His ancestor was one of three brothers, who at the time spelled their name ‘Magiet’. Today there are many Magiets in the Cape Peninsula, some of whom were notably prominent in non-racial cricket during Apartheid. The brother from whom Justice Majiedt traces his name however, migrated inland from the Cape before converting to Christianity and falling in love with a Khoisan woman, whom he then married. Justice Majiedt thus traces his heritage, the unique spelling of his name, and his Christian tradition from this couple.