Home News City bids farewell to one of Kimberley’s first

City bids farewell to one of Kimberley’s first

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What was expected to be a sombre event, turned out to be an event filled with song and laughter as friends, family members, acquaintances and the Kimberley community bid farewell to Judge Yvonne Mokgoro during a memorial service.

What was expected to be a sombre event, turned out to be an event filled with song and laughter as friends, family members, acquaintances and the Kimberley community bid farewell to Judge Yvonne Mokgoro during a memorial service.

The memorial service was hosted at the St Boniface Catholic Church in Kimberley where the late judge completed her schooling career.

Judge Mokgoro died on May 9, 2024 following an accident involving a truck on the road between Warrenton and Kimberley in 2023.

She sustained serious injuries which impacted her health and she had to withdraw from public obligations.

Friends lovingly remembered her as a diligent, meticulous, hard-working, barrier breaker, soft-spoken, music lover and a humble person with a very naughty streak which those in her close circle got to see and experience.

Northern Cape High Court Judge and Chairperson of the Sol Plaatje University, Judge Mmathebe Phatsoane, relayed what appeared to be an unending list of Mokgoro’s achievements.

“Judge Mokgoro was born in Galeshewe and matriculated at St Boniface High School in 1970. She studied mostly part-time, obtaining a Bachelor of Law degree at the University of Bophuthatswana, now known as the North West University, in 1982 and completed her Masters in Law (LLM) in 1987.

“She also studied at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States of America where she was awarded a second LLM degree. She started her work experience as nursing assistant and later as a retail salesperson before her appointment as a clerk in the Department of Justice of the erstwhile Bophuthatswana.

“After her completion of her LLB, she was appointed as maintenance officer and public prosecutor in the then Mmabatho Magistrate’s Court. In 1984, she was appointed lecturer in law in the Department of Jurisprudence at the University of Bophuthatswana where she rose to the ranks to Associate Professor and served there until 1991,” Judge Phatsoane said.

From 1992 to 1993, she served as Associate Professor at at the University of the Western Cape from where she moved to the Centre for Constitutional Analysis at the Human Science Research Council where she held the position of Specialist Researcher (Human Rights) while also lecturing part-time at at the University of Pretoria until her appointment to the Constitutional Court in October 1994.

“Throughout her career she taught numerous courses which include Constitutional law, Human Rights Law Jurisprudence, Comparative Law, Criminal Law, Customary Law at a number of universities in South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States and Netherlands.”

She has written and presented papers and participated in a number of national and international conferences. Judge Mokgoro also served on the Advisory Committee of the South African-Canadian Linkage Project from its inception in 1994 until it ceased in 2004.

From 1995 until 2005 she was the President of Africa Legal Aid (AFLA), which provides legal aid and human rights education throughout Africa and is based in Accra in Ghana. She served on a number of boards and trusts, including the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund which she chaired.

She also served as the Chairperson of the Selection Committee of the Press Council of South Africa which is responsible for appointing the Press Ombudsman and members of the Press Appeal Bard.

Judge Phatsoane added that Judge Mokgoro was also the recipient of numerous awards and honours which, amongst others, include the Human Rights Award by the Black Lawyers Association, the Oude Molen Reserve Order of Merit, the Legal Profession’s Woman Achiever Award by the Centre for Human Rights and the University of Pretoria, the Kate Stoneman Democracy Award from the Albany Law School in New York, the Tshwane Outstanding Service Award (TOSA) and the James Wilson Award from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

In 2006, Judge Mokgoro was selected as an icon of the history of Women lawyers in South Africa. She served as a Judge in the Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ) from 2011 to 2013. In 2013 she was appointed to chair a Tribunal which investigated the ethical conduct of the President of the Lesotho Court of Appeal. She was awarded the Order of the Baobab in bronze by former President Jacob Zuma in 2015 in recognition of her excellent contribution to law and the administration of justice in a democratic South Africa.

Judge Phatsoane said besides Judge Mokgoro’s great achievements in law, she was also a “dear friend,a dviser and confidant”.

“She was pleasant to work with. She always engaged her colleagues in a calm and professional manner. She was a true champion of the Sol Plaatje University and leaves a void in our hearts and lives, however, our gratitude will fill our hearts as we celebrate this giant of justice and fairness,” Judge Phatsoane said.

The Mayor of Sol Plaatje, Kagisho Sonyni said she was Kimberley’s rare diamond . . . to South Africa and the world.

“We have lost a proud Kimberlite, who fondly reminded many a person that her inspiration for studying law and ultimately serving in the apex court traced back to her city of birth . . . from interactions with the revered icon of the freedom struggle, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, and the subjugation of her people during the repressive 1970s that spurred her on as a student activist.

“Like Kimberley’s many firsts, Justice Mokgoro’s distinguished career has left its own imprints of many firsts engraved in South African history. Hers is a legacy deserving salutations from the South African National Defence Force in having being accorded a Special Official Funeral Category 1,” said Sonyoni.

Friends of Judge Mokgoro said they will remember her as “Young, Gifted and Black” which is the title of one of the songs of the late Nina Simone whose music she loved.

Mokgoro was buried yesterday in Bryanston.

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