Justice & Law

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Joel Block, 30

International law researcher
Wits University

As an international military law researcher at Wits University, Joel Block researches the intersections between the military and international legal frameworks. For his work, he has been awarded military conference certificates from the South African National Defence Force, the Aeronautic and Astronautic Association of France, the Israel Missile Defence Association and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Much of Block’s research includes explorations of global integrated air and missile defence systems through a legal lens, for example, examining the legality of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system. Through the course he completed with the International Committee of the Red Cross, he has gained a better understanding of international humanitarian law and how military law interacts with it. His current work, as a jurisprudence researcher at Wits, focuses on the theoretical implications of waging war in space through the Star Wars franchise.

In your career, you will always work with people, thus it is essential for you learn how to manage people with different cultural and educational backgrounds

Author - Anita Makgetla
Nonhlanhla Mtshali, 28

Nonhlanhla Mtshali, 28

Manager of Legal Services
Postbank

Technically, Nonhlanhla Mtshali is a manager of legal services with Postbank, but she’s becoming more influential as an attorney who blogs about legal issues for the layman. Her blogs across social media platforms help ordinary people understand some trending legal affairs. She simplifies complex jargon and counters fake news and misguided opinions. Mtshali plans to consolidate her guidance with an app that informs users about legal affairs and lets them download relevant documents. Law is a field that influences our everyday lives, and it’s important for people to make informed decisions and understand their rights, she says. Her approachable attitude makes her a popular analyst for media outlets when they cover proposed new laws or changes to existing ones. Although Mtshali has encountered racism and old-fashioned attitudes in the profession, she’s determined to rise above them and cement herself as a legal trendsetter.

Failure is part of the process and you can only win if you are doing something.

Lesley Stones | mg.co.za
Nasreen Jajbhay, 32

Nasreen Jajbhay, 32

Labour lawyer, part-time commissioner and bargaining council panellist
CCMA, Bargaining Council, Jajbhay Attorneys

Nasreen Jajbhay is a Johannesburg-based attorney whose law firm, Jajbhay Attorneys, provides holistic employment law services, while Jajbhay herself also works part-time as a commissioner and panellist at the Bargaining Council. The impetus to start her own firm was the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Finding herself underemployed and her abilities and knowledge underutilised, she opened her sole practice. Like most entrepreneurs, she recognises the importance of obstacles in making us strong and determined enough to reach beyond the low-hanging fruit and instead aim for greater goals. Through her work, she seeks to ensure justice in employment matters is guaranteed and accessible to all, and to ensure disputes are thoroughly and fairly resolved. Additionally, she is passionate about ensuring women are fairly treated and empowered in the workplace. In pursuit of these aims, her firm offers contract and policy drafting, managing workplace enquiries, training, facilitating and litigation. — Anita Makgetla

Follow your passion – if you have a passion for something, it makes it easier to do it, there are no boundaries.

Anita Makgetla | mg.co.za
Nelisile Thanjekwayo, 29

Nelisile Thanjekwayo, 29

Global commercial legal counsel Deputy chairperson
Shell Downstream South Africa South Africa Day

Nelisile Thanjekwayo is a woman determined to build herself and her community. She has managed to strike a balance between corporate success that empowers her and social work that inspires her. In her professional capacity, she is the global commercial lead at Shell Downstream South Africa, where she gives legal counsel and identifies risks and alternatives to business strategies. In her work, she is able to guide Shell to more community-centric approaches of doing business. Outside of her work with Shell, Thanjekwayo is the deputy chairperson of South Africa Day. This non-profit goes into marginalised communities and enacts programmes intended to provide social, financial and organisational support. From physical renovations to helping build business networks, South Africa Day empowers communities and sets them on the path to self-sufficiency. This balance of personal fulfilment and community upliftment is what keeps Thanjekwayo content with her path in life.

There’s no reason to fear people who fight you because they think your ideas may be a little out of the box.

Anita Makgetla | mg.co.za
Melody Musoni, 33

Melody Musoni, 33

PhD student and legal consultant
Phukubje Pierce Masithela Attorneys

Melody Musoni is a PhD student at university and a legal consultant at Phukubje Pierce Masithela Attorneys. Her area of focus is the intersection between technological advancement and the law, while her thesis focuses on addressing cloud computing law and cybersecurity. She has found that, for her, the law is not so much about court cases, but is instead about understanding the complexities and nuances of information technology, and drafting contracts that meet the legal needs of the people who engage with those technologies. Through her work, Musoni hopes to see internet access become a basic human right. She wants to see a society where digital literacy rates are high and access is universal. She considers access to stable and secure internet, as well as the protection of personal digital data and online security, to be critical to the advancement of all South Africans.

I’d tell my younger self to never quit and that patience should be one of her core virtues, because a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Anita Makgetla | mg.co.za
Mgqugquzeli Jiyane, 31

Mgqugquzeli Jiyane, 31

Senior legal manager
MTN

Mgqugquzeli Jiyane wants to see young people in the legal field getting more involved in the digital space. He says: “It is such a niche market, and there are so many opportunities.” As a senior legal manager at MTN, he attends to legal matters within various departments and also drafts platform digital contracts in gaming, video and music. He believes that all people deserve a seat at the table no matter their background, education, age or ethnicity. The biggest surprise in his career was being appointed to a senior role at just 28, and realising that you have to work three times harder when you’re young, as some people may think you lack the necessary expertise or are incapable. Jiyane says he is driven to excel by knowing he’s in a position to inspire young people and impart his knowledge to new people on a daily basis.

It is scary putting your art out into the world, but don’t let the fear stop you.

Oratile Mashazi | mg.co.za
Lerato Thahane, 33

Lerato Thahane, 33

Lawyer and partner
Bowmans South Africa

Lerato Thahane’s biggest surprise was discovering that someone from a disadvantaged background could achieve some of the milestones that she has. While on secondment to Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, a law firm in Munich, she was the lead associate on one of Europe’s biggest merger and acquisition deals. In order to achieve this, she learned to speak German and integrate herself into a new legal ecosystem. When asked why she pursues excellence, Thahane says that she wants to be an exemplary role model for other young lawyers who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. To this end, she founded the student alumni network board of the Student Sponsorship Programme, a private scholarship fund that helps gifted young South Africans access the best schools in the country. She contributes to the fund financially and by mentoring a young dux scholar, who she says “radiates with potential to do great things in medicine in the future”.

Greatness is inside of you — others may nurture your greatness, but they must work with something that is already there.

Oratile Mashazi | mg.co.za
Mahashane Myakayaka, 34

Mahashane Myakayaka, 34

Senior legal counsel
Sandvik

Mahashane Myakayaka is the legal and compliance lead for Sandvik, a multinational engineering company servicing the central, western and southern African markets. She is also the cofounder and strategic lead of legal tech start-up Basics Legal, which serves small and medium-sized businesses, as well as start-ups. Making the Dean’s Merit List for the MBA she earned while working internationally and raising a young child was a particular point of pride for her, but she advocates prioritising personal wellbeing. “A stint working abroad nearly broke me,” she says, “because I simply did not have the confidence to stand up for myself and be confident in my abilities.” Although she travels extensively, Myakayaka’s heart is always with our country and her goal is to make an impact in her field and, in doing so, to leave a lasting legacy for not only her own child, but all young South Africans.

You can be whatever you want to be if you are willing to outwork everyone, including your former self

James Nash | mg.co.za
Khanyi Zungu, 28

Khanyi Zungu, 28

Chief executive
Lawyal Solutions

Many law graduates are unemployed because there are too few legal firms to absorb them and let them serve their apprenticeships. Khanyi Zungu is working on a proposal for the Law Society of South Africa to recommend alternative training solutions apart from legal articles to help more graduates find employment. She’s already established her own consultancy, Lawyal Solutions, with clients in industries including mining and entertainment, a brave step for a young black woman. Zungu served her own articles with Werksmans Attorneys, then at 26 she became the legal head of Lurco, a mining company. She learned to trust her instincts and not procrastinate during negotiations to successfully secure funding for a multibillion-rand acquisition. “I am eternally grateful for the clients who have given me a chance to showcase my skills and expertise,” she says.

Seek knowledge and wisdom, and don’t be shy to network with relevant people who interest you.

Lesley Stones | mg.co.za
Matlale Matladi, 29

Matlale Matladi, 29

Attorney and director
Matlale Matladi Attorneys

Matlale Matladi established her own company, Matlale Matladi Attorneys, to help herself and other young black women get ahead in the legal profession.She trained at the Polokwane School for Legal Practice, and her proudest moment was her admission as a high court attorney. Then she realised the multitude of obstacles women face in the profession, including sexism and inflexible workplace structures. “Being a young black attorney, the mistake I made was to think it would be an easy journey. It has been my driving force to make it work regardless of the challenges,” she says.Her company specialises in deceased estates, civil litigation, personal injury, unlawful arrest and detention claims. To help others, she’s working to create career awareness in schools to help prepare learners for life’s challenges. She’s also a mother of three, and determined to lead by example and raise hard-working and resilient young people.

Design the life you want to live and work towards that — it becomes hard if you don’t have something that drives you to do more.

Lesley Stones | mg.co.za
Matome Lelope, 31

Matome Lelope, 31

Senior legal advisor
Export Credit Insurance Corporation of South Africa

Matome Lelope is a senior legal adviser at the Export Credit Insurance Corporation of South Africa. In this capacity, he advises on transactions, including international investment, pertaining to infrastructure, transportation, mining and energy. One of the notable transactions he was involved in was the Beitbridge border post transaction: a $300-million deal that was selected as one of the top transactions of 2020 by the Global Trade Review. In addition to this work, Lelope has contributed to the legal fraternity through his research on tax avoidance. His work has influenced how the government deals with impermissible tax avoidance by advocating for the introduction of penalties instead of limiting available action to corrective measures. Lelope believes that all problems can be resolved one step at a time and hopes that, through his work in the legal field, he can play his part in alleviating the country’s complex shortfalls.

At the end of the day, bread must be buttered. No artist deserves an exploitation of any sort.

Anita Makgetla | mg.co.za
Joselynn Fember, 28

Joselynn Fember, 28

Managing partner
Fember Attorneys Incorporated

Joselynn Fember opened her law firm at the age of 25. There are few who can boast this level of success at such a young age, and even fewer who were able to achieve this as the first person in their family to obtain a degree. As a young woman and lawyer, Fember has had to frequently push back against people who underestimate and undervalue her, and she’s had to remind herself that it’s pointless to compare yourself to those who come from different circumstances. Through her work, she hopes to inspire people to persevere, to overcome self-doubt and to see themselves as capable and deserving. She encourages entrepreneurs in the legal field to seek working opportunities however possible, to be patient and determined in working towards goals, and to remain disciplined and dedicated. Through these steps, she has been able to build strong working relationships and overcome all obstacles.

Be teachable and open to being stretched, but do not compromise on the core values that set you apart from the rest.

Anita Makgetla | mg.co.za
Cherese Thakur, 32

Cherese Thakur, 32

Advocacy co-ordinator
amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism

As the head of amaBhungane’s advocacy programme, Cherese Thakur has dedicated her professional life to ensuring that investigative journalists have access to information and are afforded the professional freedoms required to fulfil their constitutionally protected role in our democracy. Her work includes lobbying, campaigning, examining laws and litigation, and collaborating with stakeholders to ensure the protection and independence of the media. She rightfully sees her role as a cog in a machine that is working towards exposing corruption and maladministration in our country. Thakur finds deep fulfilment in her work, and her advice to young professionals is to maintain a healthy work-life balance to prevent burnout. In the same way a strong media can ensure a healthy and sustainable democracy, maintaining personal health, dependable relationships and pursuing your passions will provide balance and ensure you are able to maintain a long and fruitful professional life.

I don’t have any “big mistakes”, because I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for life’s detours.

Anita Makgetla | mg.co.za
Mnotho Ngcobo, 24

Mnotho Ngcobo, 24

Attorney
M T Ngcobo Attorneys

At 24, Mnotho Ngcobo opened his law firm MT Ngcobo Attorneys in Eshowe to provide legal services to sugarcane farmworkers. He also assists with family law issues and estates, largely representing women who were married customarily and when their husband dies, his family tries to take everything from the widow. After matriculating in 2015, Ngcobo was hired as a clerk and was later promoted to candidate attorney. This allowed him to attend law school at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, where he wrote and passed his board exams. “I didn’t have funds to study further, but I knew that I wanted to be an attorney. So I looked for a job in a law firm as a cleaner or anything. I just wanted to put my foot in a law firm. I knew that once I was in, I was going to work hard to get recognition, and I did.”

I want to help my people move from a mindset of poverty to a mindset of entrepreneurship and innovation

Afrika Bogatsu | mg.co.za
Celinhlanhla Magubane, 32

Celinhlanhla Magubane, 32

Consultant
Suri Naicker Attorneys

As a lawyer, Celinhlanhla Magubane could have just done his day job and still been considered a successful, upstanding member of society. Above and beyond his professional capacity, he has been recognised and awarded by the Global Law Thinkers Society; specifically sought out to design a course on professional ethics for candidate attorneys; and has had an article reviewed by a South African supreme court of appeal judge. Magubane believes in giving back. This includes speaking engagements as well as taking part in hands-on community work. He cofounded the Villagers of Africa Foundation, which focuses on uplifting the youth in rural areas. He spends much of his time building the capabilities of young people in his community, encouraging them to achieve more than they thought was possible, and helping them achieve their goals through educational and financial assistance.

Developing others and having a positive impact on their lives is a key driver for me today.

Anita Makgetla | mg.co.za
Dhahini Naidu, 32

Dhahini Naidu, 32

Director – attorney
Fairbridges Wertheim Becker Attorneys

Dhahini Naidu’s previous boss and mentor, a director at Fairbridges Wertheim Becker Attorneys, fell terminally ill just before the national lockdown last year. Her team was left in the lurch, without a leader amid high-stakes litigation. In what she describes as a sink-or-swim situation, Naidu opted to don some water wings. She managed to keep the operation afloat: the culmination of a highly successful spell as a senior associate at the firm, which sealed her promotion to director. Her precocious talent and ability to withstand the pressure of the transition flowed naturally from the all-systems-go mentality she appears to have embraced since first stepping into legal practice. She attributes the motivation to her having underachieved during her undergraduate studies; something she now regrets, but also recognises as having provided the impetus to crank up the intensity during her articles. It certainly paid off.

I want South Africa to be seen as a global thought leader on bioethics.

Zia Haffejee | mg.co.za