Mandela as a Lawyer: Advocate Ngcukaitobi, Judge Sachs reflect on the life of an icon

The story of black lawyers in South Africa was central to the Mandela as a Lawyer public lecture theme that inspired Law students at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) on Tuesday, 26 September 2018.

In his address, South African lawyer, public speaker, author and political activist, Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi pointed out how the country’s first black lawyers led the struggle to replace the apartheid regime of South Africa with a multi-racial democracy providing a heroic model for the legal profession throughout the world.

Focusing on the life of the late Nelson Mandela, one of the world’s most revered political leaders, Adv Ngcukaitobi emphasised that these individuals became lawyers against all odds and worked within a legal system that led the nation to transformation.

“South Africa’s system of apartheid was pervasive with its government and law dedicated to the separation and subjugation of the majority of its population. It’s is remarkable that under apartheid, people who were part of the oppressed majority sought to work within the country’s legal system. Mandela, together with the country’s first black lawyers, emerged from the apartheid system with the experience and insight needed to build a democratic nation,” he stressed.

How did they ever manage to practice law? What did they accomplish under the apartheid system? What did their legal accomplishment mean for South Africa? These were some of the poignant questions raised by Adv Ngcukaitobi.

A former judge on the Constitutional Court of South Africa, Albie Sachs echoed Adv Ngcukaitobi sentiments adding that the story of Mandela as a lawyer, not forgetting that of Oliver Tambo and Ruth Mompati, enriches the legal profession and exemplifies the tale of lawbreaker to the lawmaker.

Adv Ngcukaitobi, who is no stranger to UJ’s halls, elucidated the importance of law and legal studies in today’s evolving world and implored students to work hard to achieve their qualifications. He motivated the students to become influential lawyers, advocates and judges once they qualify and drove the message home that they have the power to shape the future of South African law.

  • The University’s Johannesburg Institute of Advanced Study (JIAS), the Faculty of Law, in partnership with the University’s Library and Information Centre, hosted the public lecture.
Tembeka Ngcukaitobi
From left to right: Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi; Prof George Mpedi, Executive Dean (Faculty of Law, UJ); Judge Albie Sachs


Judge Albie Sachs
Judge Albie Sachs
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