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Nkcubeko Mbambisa (30)

Director, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr Inc.

At only 30 years old, Nkcubeko Mbambisa is one of the youngest black Africans to hold the position of director of the top law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr. His role as director means he is concerned with the continued success and sustenance of the business as a whole: becoming more involved in management decisions, procuring and securing workflow so that the business continues to generate profit. This is in addition to his role as a lawyer which involves the day-to-day management of client relations and producing quality work for clients.

Although he considers being appointed a director a huge achievement, he considers the level of work that he does now to be a bigger achievement and believes there’s so much more to learn.

His technical know-how means he works on the most complex transactions and cases with relative ease. Through achieving the expert technical knowledge in his competitive line of work, he’s earned the appreciation and admiration of fellow colleagues and clients.

After being admitted as an attorney in 2012, it took him just six years to achieve the pinnacle of directorship which he considers a natural progression because he enjoys what he does and “giving it my all comes easily”. It was being eager to learn and take on the most complex challenges that honed his skills and earned him respect amongst his colleagues.

He completed his LLB degree in 2010 at the University of the Western Cape. Coming from the Eastern Cape and having a rural upbringing and education, his hard work and dedication have set him apart in the legal field in a very short space of time.

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Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane (26)

Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane (26)

Policy and advocacy fellow, Sonke Gender Justice

Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane just completed his master’s in law from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He earned his LLB from Stellenbosch University in 2013, serving as a tutor and an on-campus residence academic mentor.

He made it to Stellenbosch through the “recruitment camp” programme, which was an initiative by the Centre for Prospective Students that chose top Black students around the country and recruited them to study at Stellenbosch. When he started at Stellenbosch he, along with other students in the programme, felt out of place. They all came together and through many conversations about their experiences, they drafted a document that would be the template for the First Generation camp. Today the First Generation camp continues to play a role in ensuring that first-generation university students are equipped with the necessary skills to survive and succeed at university.

Since then, Mokgoroane has completed his articles and was appointed as an associate at Bowmans in Johannesburg. He went on to clerk for Justice Mbuyiseli Madlanga at the Constitutional Court before pursuing his studies at UCLA.
He will be working at Sonke Gender Justice from June 2018, where he will use his knowledge and experience with queer theory, Black feminist theory and critical race theory to challenge a system that continues to plague the marginalised bodies of queer people and Black womxn.

As an avid reader, Mokgoroane would read books and spend hours talking about them with his friend Dr Alma. They would go to book launches and bombard the authors with questions and in April 2017 they started The Cheeky Natives, a literary podcast that reviews arts and literature of black authors and creative people, which he says has been well received. “It has changed my worldview to become even more unapologetic and intentional in celebrating Black art and Black people,” he says. Mokgoroane loves theatre, hiking, jazz, art and for him, twerking “is an act of revolution and self-care”. — Welcome Lishivha

Sagwadi Mabunda (25)

Sagwadi Mabunda (25)

PhD candidate, University of the Western Cape

Sagwadi Mabunda is a 25-year-old third year PhD candidate at UWC, currently working on the South African Cybercrimes Bill. She has a master’s in International Criminal Justice and is working hard to build a career around the prevention of cybercrime. Her goal is to provide African governments with advice and support around effective legislation and policies around cybercrime, starting with cyber money laundering.

“My journey is anchored in curiosity,” says Mabunda. “It began with a fascination with the inner workings of the criminal mind and has led to a dedication to academic research. I did my LLB at Wits and moved to UWC to do my LLM in 2015. I was one of 12 master’s candidates in my class and I was both the youngest and only South African candidate. I was awarded a full DAAD Scholarship to complete the master’s programme.”

By the time she hit 23, Mabunda had enrolled for her PhD and started building an impressive list of achievements. She published in the Oxford Journal Statute Law Review in 2017, presented and published a paper at the IST-Africa Conference in Namibia, and has another icABCD conference coming up in August 2018. She attended the Siracusa International Institute Specialised Course in Italy and was one of only five African participants.

She’s grateful to her parents for supporting her lofty ambitions. “My parents are really important to me, but I must give special credit to my dad, Calvin Mabunda,” she says. “He instilled in me the love of knowledge and stopped his own PhD midway to take care of us. So my PhD journey is picking up the mantle and making the dream real for us both.” — Tamsin Oxford

Mokone Finger (26)

Mokone Finger (26)

Associate at Clyde & Co South Africa

Born in the small town of Qwaqwa in the Free State and raised by his two older brothers after his mother passed away, Mokone Finger graduated with a law degree from the University of the Free State with a speciality in medical law.

At varsity, he was involved in public interest initiatives through the Golden Key International Honour Society (a society for top performing students) and for those efforts, was selected to participate in the Top 100 Brightest Young Minds Summit.

Today he works as an associate at Clyde & Co in Johannesburg and outside of his day job, he’s dedicated some of his time to educating law students from universities around the country on the importance of legal education and how the law can be incorporated into everyday life to deal with social ills of our country.

His primary areas of expertise include insurance law and reinsurance, corporate insurance and policy coverage, insurance litigation with a speciality in professional indemnity, commercial law, general litigation, medical law, health care, personal injury and medical negligence.

He is a volunteer at Sinako We Can Movement. This initiative seeks to teach and demystify the Constitutional Court’s role in broader society through guided tours and talks from various professionals including attorneys, legal advisors and judges.

“I believe that whilst we grow and develop as people and professionals, it is important to impart legal knowledge, to train and to inspire other South Africans throughout our own journeys and successes,” he says.

He is also involved in a fundraising project for cataract surgery and optometry-related care for the community of Lenasia South which was motivated by the need for specialised eye care for disadvantaged communities.

Some of his career highlights so far include writing academic and market-awareness articles for clients and publications. He is continuously involved in legal education and development, including attending the medico-legal summit hosted by health minister Aaron Motsoaledi.

Sasha Stevenson (34)

Sasha Stevenson (34)

Attorney and head of health, SECTION27

Sasha Stevenson is a young human rights lawyer who works under incredible pressure to help those who are vulnerable.

She was deeply involved in the Life Esidimeni case for two years where she worked tirelessly to help others. While that is an impressive achievement on its own, she has also been a researcher for the late Chief Justice Pius Langa at the Constitutional Court and worked for the Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court.

“When I was at school the Constitution was new and the first cases coming out of the Constitutional Court — S v Makwanyane about the death penalty, Grootboom v Government of RSA about the right to housing — these cases showed what it meant to live in a constitutional democracy,” says Stevenson. “It was inspiring and made me want to study law and use it to realise human rights.”

Stevenson studied law and politics at Rhodes University and did her articles at Bowmans. Halfway through her articles she worked as a clerk of the Constitutional Court. It was a dream come true for her.

“It was the year when four of the first cohort of judges, including the Chief Justice, were retiring and the court roll was full of socio-economic rights cases,” says Stevenson. “Then, after my articles, I worked in the Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court to explore international law before heading to the University of Cambridge to study for a Master of Laws degree.”

Today, Stevenson works with SECTION27 in a role she loves. It allows her to use the law in creative ways to solve problems affecting the most vulnerable people in society. She is an activist, organiser, researcher, spokesperson, advisor and lawyer every day. — Tamsin Oxford

Liesl Muller (31)

Liesl Muller (31)

Attorney and head of the Statelessness Project, Lawyers for Human Rights

Liesl Muller heads the Statelessness Project at Lawyers for Human Rights, one of the only projects of its kind in South Africa and the region.

The project is geared towards helping people without a nationality and therefore without legal identity before the law to obtain recognition of their human rights. Stateless people are people who are not recognised as a citizen in any country in the world, a plight Muller considers one of the most horrific human rights abuses of our time as it is key to accessing every other human right. She has driven strategic litigation about changing laws which continue to entrench statelessness. She has also contributed to countless submissions to various national and regional bodies, including the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review and the African Committee on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

“One of my favourite moments was when my client got her birth certificate after months of legal battles and was able to go back to school in grade one — she is very intelligent,” she says.

The work she does has been instrumental in attempting to combat statelessness in South Africa. She’s presented cases to the UN Committee on the Rights on the Child (CRC) and to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. She’s also had her work used in reports by the CRC, the UN Human Rights Council and the high-level panel chaired by former president Kgalema Motlanthe.

She has produced films about her clients’ circumstances as well as written and produced publications which highlight their circumstances and how to resolve the legal issues which prevent them from accessing a nationality.

She has also conducted extensive training to Legal Aid South Africa, the South African Human Rights Commission, department of social development and the department of basic education on access to nationality. “One of the things I find most challenging about this field of work is when I am dealing with clients who are at the absolute end of their rope with no hope left, often suicidal. But I’ve constantly had to pull myself out of it to try again and continue fighting for my clients without losing steam,” she says.

Sentebale Makara (32)

Sentebale Makara (32)

Senior associate, Dispute Resolution, Webber Wentzel

Sentebale Makara is an impressive young lawyer with a sterling reputation and career.

He started his career at Webber Wentzel as a candidate attorney in 2012 and has, since then, been promoted to senior associate, advocated landmark cases that have developed South Africa’s jurisprudence for the better, worked tirelessly with nonprofit organisations to promote the democratisation of law in South Africa and fought internationally for human rights. Makara has also mentored young people in Webber Wentzel and the greater community and lectures at Wits University.

“There was a time in my schooling that I was made to believe that I would never amount to anything but another township statistic,” says Makara. “My mother broke her back to ensure my fees were paid — she had promised my father before he passed that she would ensure I got a good education. It is her belief in me that keeps me going in a very competitive and goal-driven environment.”

In spite of the setbacks presented by his school, Makara studied law at the University of the Western Cape using a diploma in Criminal Law and Justice that he’d achieved to compensate for his high school subjects. He then studied a LLM in Dispute Resolution at the University of Missouri where he also qualified as a mediator.

“When I came back to South Africa I joined Webber Wentzel and today I am a senior associate in the dispute resolution practice group,” concludes Makara. “I have met many remarkable people on my journey and my most humbling role has been as a member of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers.”

Makara has been involved in some impressive cases over the past few years and shows no signs of slowing down his meteoric rise. His goals for the future include earning his seat as a partner and ranked lawyer and effecting change across the country. — Tamsin Oxford

Khuraisha Patel (25)

Khuraisha Patel (25)

Legal researcher, Open Secrets

Khuraisha Patel is a human rights lawyer and legal researcher at the nonprofit organisation Open Secrets. Open Secrets is an NGO that uses investigation, strategic litigation and advocacy to promote private sector accountability for human rights violations. Patel conducts legal research on, strategises around and uses legal and quasi-legal interventions to operationalise investigations on historic and contemporary domestic and transnational corporate economic crimes.

Before joining the organisation, she worked on research and litigation in areas of business and human rights, gender and access to information as a candidate attorney at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (Cals). She considers her involvement in South African social grant cases during her tenure at Cals great learning curves and worthwhile moments that have contributed to domestic jurisprudence and bettering the lives of many disenfranchised people.

Patel holds a LLB and an LLM from the University of Pretoria, specialising in human rights and democratisation in Africa. In 2015, she was an intern at the Refugee Law Project (RLP) at Makarere University in Kampala, Uganda. While there, she provided legal assistance to refugees and unaccompanied minors seeking asylum and resettlement. “The staff and clients at RLP have taught me the value of deferring to lived experience, the resilience and agency of people whose lives the system tries to reduce to a collection of papers and the importance of infusing kindness into your work,” she says. It is an experience which emboldened her passion to engage with the law while using it to pursue justice.

Today, Patel continues to use the law to defend human rights at Open Secrets, where she is part of a legal project that tests the boundaries of an international legal mechanisms for corporate accountability that simultaneously compels alleged contributors to apartheid to confront the continuing harm arising from their conduct. — Welcome Lishivha

Thabo Ngilande (33)

Thabo Ngilande (33)

General counsel and head of legal, 3M South Africa

Thabo Ngilande is only 33 years old, but he already has numerous degrees to his name. A practising lawyer as the general counsel for a multinational science company, he has degrees in chemistry, law and environmental sciences and is currently studying his PhD in commercial law at the University of Cape Town. He also obtained his first master’s at the age of 21.

“My career unfolded in an amazing and unexpected way,” says Ngilande. “I have supportive friends and family who believe in me and their presence inspired my career choices and what I do. I now have five degrees in both law and science, a beautiful wife and kids and I am following a journey full of challenges, fun, accountability and rewards.”
Ngilande is inspired by the former Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court, Sandile Ngcobo — whom he had an opportunity to work with. As Ngilande’s first boss, he gave him a solid legal foundation and inspired a deep love for the legal profession.

“When I look back at my days at the Constitutional Court I always remember the high-profile and fascinating cases I worked on,” says Ngilande. “My other mentor is Professor Corlia Van Heerden from the department of mercantile law at the University of Pretoria. She’s an amazing and inspiring academic who made me realise how fantastic academia is.”

Today, Ngilande is focused on becoming more involved in academic work and making a difference by helping young South Africans reach their potential. He would also like to see himself one day sitting on the bench as a judge of the Competition Appeal Court.

“I specialise in competition law, corporate commercial, contracts, environmental law, mergers & acquisitions and intellectual property & trademarks,” says Ngilande. “I also have Thabo the Scientist who focuses on environmental chemistry and research exclusive around global warming issues such as climate change.” — Tamsin Oxford

Nozipho Dlali (33)

Nozipho Dlali (33)

Founder and managing director, Nozipho Dlali Attorneys

Raised in the small town of Fort Beaufort in the Eastern Cape, Nozipho Dlali set out to make a difference to the world.

Today she’s a human rights advocate running her own legal practice, Nozipho Dlali Attorneys. She worked for the Consumer Protection Office in the Free State for six years, offering pro bono legal services to the poor and the marginalised, she was instrumental in drafting the initial draft bill for the Free State Unfair Business Practice Act, and represented South Africa as a Junior Chamber International Peace is Possible Director in 2017. It was in her latter role that she represented the country at the World Peace Summit in Sarawak, Malaysia and participated in the formation of the Young People’s Proclamation and Peace.

When asked what inspires her, Dlali says, “During orange picking season, scholars had to stop schooling and harvest. This was my first exposure to gross injustice and inequalities, that we still face in our country, and I knew then that I wanted to be a lawyer. I felt this was the only platform I could use to address these injustices.”

Dlali studied her LLB at the University of the Free State and then moved to the provincial Consumer Protection Office. She also joined a nonprofit organisation, Junior Chamber International South Africa as a director of the Peace is Possible Campaign. This is when she realised the responsibility she had as an individual towards the realisation of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

“I realised what role I needed to play if we wanted to create the world we wanted to live in by 2030,” she says. “I formed Nozipho Dlali Attorneys where our core vision is to eradicate social injustices and inequalities by making legal services accessible to those who normally wouldn’t have access. I believe that the only way that can happen is if partnerships are formed between government, section 9 institutions, the business sector and civil society.”

Today, Dlali is changing the world one human being at a time, but tomorrow she is one of 700 young South African leaders set to participate in the Mandela Washington Fellowship in the United States. — Tamsin Oxford

Tladi Marumo (32)

Tladi Marumo (32)

Director, Marumo at Law Advisory and Good Law Foundation

Tladi Marumo has always been such a force of nature that back in grade seven his peers knew that he would one day become a lawyer committed to social change. At the age of 28 he was awarded the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship and was appointed as a lecturer at Rhodes University.

His work with the Legal Resources Centre in Grahamstown led to his being awarded the prestigious US Fulbright Scholarship that allowed him to pursue his research as a doctor of Judicial Science at the University of Notre Dame. By the age of 30 he was director of the Good Law Foundation with judge Mervyn King and remains one of South Africa’s brightest legal minds.

“I grew up in Sharpeville during the politically volatile, transitionary period of the late 1980s and early 1990s,” says Marumo. “During this time, the exclusion of black children from schools in the Vaal area meant my skin colour disqualified me from admission.

My mother, a persistent and resilient single parent and teacher in Sharpeville, asserted my pre-constitutional right to a decent education by relentlessly petitioning the South African Catholic Church’s educational administration.”
Thanks to his mother’s efforts, Marumo gained entrance to an independent school in Vanderbijlpark which is where he encountered what Patrick Noonan, a revolutionary Irish Catholic priest, describes as the “spirituality of justice and peace”.

“This period and the subsequent negotiations towards constitutional democracy demonstrated the contrasting powers of the law to me,” he says. “The law can be an instrument for oppression or social change.”

The quote that forms the guiding principle of Marumo’s life is from Professor Toni Morrison: “Work and think at the top of my form, that I stand on moral ground but know that ground must be shored up by mercy, that the world is before me and I need not take it or leave it as it was when I came in.” — Tamsin Oxford

Zakeera Docrat (27)

Zakeera Docrat (27)

Doctoral student in African languages, Rhodes University

Zakeera Docrat is only 27 years old yet she has a list of qualifications and academic achievements that most people only achieve much later in life.

She was awarded her African language studies honours degree cum laude in 2014 and received full academic colours. This was followed by an LLB degree, an MA degree in African Language Studies (cum laude) in 2017 and she is now working towards her PhD in African languages (forensic linguistics/ language and law) under the auspices of the NRF SARChI Chair in the Intellectualisation of African Languages, Multilingualism and Education.

She has presented 13 conference papers globally, attended the International Forensic Linguistics Conference in Portugal with two papers later published and had an academic journal article and two chapters published in a book. Her editorial skills also extend to the Mail & Guardian, Daily Dispatch, City Press and The Conversation.

It seems language is in her blood. “I grew up in a home where my family were fully conversant in isiXhosa, the language of my birthplace and home, the Eastern Cape,” she says. “To this day there is a passion and excitement that ignites inside of me when I speak isiXhosa. It’s an incredible feeling and privilege to be able to communicate in an African language.”

By learning isiXhosa at the Diocesan School for Girls, Grahamstown from which I matriculated, there was an emphasis placed on the power of language in bringing people together and achieving social cohesion — and with the learning of a language you gain a culture.”

Docrat continues to be inspired by language and the power it has in changing people’s lives. She believes that languages have the power to contribute to the transformational agenda and is part of transformation.

“I unapologetically believe that language plays a central role in the legal system and that African language speakers are treated unfairly in comparison to English mother tongue speakers given that court proceedings take place in English and if you are not fully conversant in English you are reliant on the legal system’s interpretation services,” she says. “We need to ensure that legal practitioners and judicial officers are competent in the official languages of the province in which they practice.

I firmly believe it is possible. The Canadian legal model of the province of New Brunswick provides an example of linguistic inclusion and where language is seen as a resource and a right rather than a problem.” — Tamsin Oxford

Anjuli Maistry (31)

Anjuli Maistry (31)

Senior attorney, Centre for Child Law

Having always been guided by a strong sense of what is fair and just from a young age, Anjuli Maistry has gone to become one of South Africa’s most valuable lawyers whose efforts are geared towards the most vulnerable members of our society and the future of our country — children.

After spending seven years working closely with refugees, advising and assisting them on breaches of their rights in South Africa (which included complaints related to hate speech, birth registration, statelessness and social services) she knew for sure that human rights was the sector she would be applying her legal expertise to. “My early experiences of consulting with refugees, evictees and land claimants confirmed my commitment to driving social change and justice in South Africa,” she says.

Currently working at the Centre for Child Law, she has previously worked for Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), Women’s Legal Centre and the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). She completed her articles at the LRC where she trained under lawyers with extensive experience in constitutional rights litigation.

Whilst working at LHR, Maistry focused on refugee rights and environmental rights. As an environmental rights lawyer, she worked to ensure respect for the rights of communities affected by mining, which included access to water and clean air. At the SAHRC, she investigated complaints of human rights violations by members of the public.
At the Centre for Child Law she plans to continue work that addresses the legal loopholes that prevent the disadvantaged access to documentation and education. She’s currently litigating strategically to ensure that children’s constitutional rights are protected and promoted.

Like many young women, Maistry says it has always been difficult to have her voice or ideas heard, but pressing against this has made her more assertive. She feels very strongly about using human rights as a vehicle to make the lives of others better. “It is only the accident of birth that means I am the one assisting rather than being assisted,” she says. The human rights sector has changed her life far more than it has of those whose cases she’s been involved in solving.

She has a sizeable book collection which she enjoys reading from in her spare time. She also enjoys eating out at different Johannesburg restaurants or when traveling, which she also enjoys. — Welcome Lishivha

Bryce Wray (30)

Bryce Wray (30)

Law researcher and clerk, Constitutional Court

Bryce Wray completed his legal undergraduate studies at Wits University before working for six years at Hogan Lovells, a large commercial law firm, where he was promoted to senior associate. There, he worked in the commercial litigation team specialising in large-scale commercial disputes where he took the lead in many matters and assisted the lead partner on some disputes.

As a senior associate, he was tasked with supervising candidate attorneys and associates. He knew that as a white male South African in an already unequal patriarchal industry the role came with the responsibility to help transform and change attitudes and perspectives to make the industry more equal. He took very seriously the task of instilling in junior lawyers the attitude that every member of the team is instrumental in finding legal solutions for the client, that all views and team members are equally valuable and that being a junior lawyer carries just as much responsibility to provide clients with the means to access to justice as a senior lawyer.

He was a consistent volunteer of the Teddy Bear Clinic Court Preparation Programme — an initiative where lawyers from Hogan Lovells assist child victims of sexual assault to prepare and give evidence in court against perpetrators of the sexual assault. It was here he realised his responsibility to use the privileges he has been afforded to assist South Africa to transform by helping those who still feel the effects of oppression that plagued this country for so long.

At this stage in his career, he began pondering where to pursue his studies, and within a year he was awarded a Chevening Scholarship to study human rights in Scotland. He says the UK is grappling with human rights law in many different ways and he was enlightened by being in such an environment and learning from various professionals, NGOs and academics. While at Hogan Lovells he was also involved in administrative, constitutional, media and access to information disputes. By the time he left, a public law and media practice was starting to grow bigger in the firm, which is something he’s particularly proud of. This is why he decided to complete his dissertation looking at the protection of journalistic sources in the digital age, a study that involved a comparative analysis of threats and protections in the UK and South Africa.

Wray is currently clerking at the Constitutional Court for Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. “Working at the Constitutional Court with the judges and other clerks is an incredible and life-changing experience,” he says. Although he’s achieved a lot for someone his age, Bryce is just getting started. When he is finished at the Constitutional Court he plans on joining the Bar to investigate and plead cases on behalf of those who are confronted with human rights injustices in South Africa. — Welcome Lishivha

Deborah Mutemwa (27)

Deborah Mutemwa (27)

Director and co-founder, TumboScott

Deborah Mutemwa is the director and cofounder of an all-black, female- and youth-owned corporate and commercial legal consultancy which provides legal services to companies and individuals with a particular focus on small, medium and micro enterprises.

After completing her LLB at the University of Johannesburg and LLM (which she passed with distinction) in business and human rights she joined Webber Wentzel, where she was the chairperson of the leadership network corporate social investment committee. In this role, she led a team that spearheaded Webber Wentzel entering into an agreement with the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica) enterprise development programme, in terms of which candidate attorneys from the firm would give free legal training classes to entrepreneurs in Saica’s programme. She also has a diploma from the Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute with a focus on the African political economy.

In 2017, she went on to Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr where she worked in public law and litigation before joining the Constitutional Court, clerking under Justice Khampepe. She also worked with the Women’s Empowerment Network of South Africa (Wenosa) and handled its sponsorship portfolio, sourcing funding and spaces for Wenosa’s workshop for women in business as well as resources like sanitary pads for annual girls’ school visits by Wenosa.

After working at top legal commercial firms and then doing a life-changing stint at the Constitutional Court, Mutemwa developed a passion for business and human rights and how the two can work together to create a better life for ordinary South Africans. This is how she founded TumboScott. Through TumboScott she seeks to use her legal experience and expertise to reach big and small clients alike and level the playing field by giving small businesses access to high quality legal services to give them a competitive advantage in operating within the legal commercial landscape.

“My biggest struggle was finding a seat at tables of relevance, where my presence is welcomed, my intelligence seen as valid and my contributions valued,” she says. But she’s found sponsors and mentors who are willing and able to invite young women like her to tables of relevance. — Welcome Lishivha

Itumeleng Mukhovha (29)

Itumeleng Mukhovha (29)

Associate, Baker & McKenzie International

Itumeleng Mukhovha is a corporate attorney in Baker & McKenzie International’s mergers and acquisitions practice group in Johannesburg. Her practice areas include mergers and acquisitions, private equity, corporate reorganisations and restructurings and mining transactions. She’s currently volunteering at the pro bono office at the Johannesburg high court where she helps solve South Africa’s developmental challenges by promoting constitutional values and facilitating access to justice for disadvantaged and indigent members of society. In her spare time she also tutors primary school learners from disadvantaged schools in Katlehong.

She is a member of the Baker & McKenzie bursary committee, a role that speaks dearly to her passion for education widening access to it. “I am passionate about education and access to justice because I believe that effective access to justice is the most basic human right in South Africa’s legal system because it … guarantees people the constitutional rights which are accorded to every member of our society”.

She obtained her LLB and LLM degrees from the University of Johannesburg and has gone on to complete short courses like the African Political Economy: The African Economic challenge from the Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute, a short course certificate on construction law from BCA Training and a short course certificate on public international law from the Hague Academy of International Law, Netherlands.

She’s completed a number of research fellowship programmes at various international institutions, including Pembroke College, Cambridge University and the Hague Academy of International Law. “My formal education and training experiences, both locally and internationally, have opened up new opportunities for me,” she says. Mukhovha has managed to maintain a highly demanding career while pursuing volunteering activities and active involvement in nonprofit and community-based initiatives in an attempt to provide solutions to some of the economic challenges facing South Africa. — Welcome Lishivha

Jason Olifant (34)

Jason Olifant (34)

Senior legal counsel, MultiChoice

Jason Olifant works as senior legal counsel at MultiChoice where he oversees the drafting and negotiating of contracts across the entire business. He considers this an exciting part of his daily job, given the volatile nature of the technological sector he’s in. Among other things, he deals with litigation, assists with compliance within the group and works with outside counsel on specialised matters related to the South African arm of the business. “There are a few challenges when negotiating with multinationals from other countries who are hard set against terms that are important to us, but the daily highlights outweigh those because the experience that comes with the constant learning is invaluable,” he says.

He has two LLM degrees — one in labour law and another in commercial law, both obtained from the University of Johannesburg where he also completed his LLB and Higher Diploma in Tax Law. He’s had the opportunity of walking the graduation stage twice in one ceremony: when he completed his LLM in labour law and his higher diploma, in record time and at the same time. He recently completed his PMD at the Gordon Institute of Business Science and has been accepted for an MBA.

“I don’t think I would have the same free, expressive, open and analytical mindset had I not studied as far as I have,” he says of his education, which he considers a “good foundation”. His previous work experience includes Dimension Data, Schindlers Attorneys and the University of Johannesburg.

One of his biggest challenges is constantly having to prove himself and his worth in his industry and winning the respect of older, more seasoned counterparts. Some of his daily struggles as a lawyer include constant expectations to perform miracles in a short amount of time and the long hours — challenges he overcomes by ensuring to deliver excellence, always. It’s these challenges that keep him growing, moving forward and gaining more knowledge.
Having never had a mentor or seeing the need for one growing up, Olifant has now realised the importance of having someone to talk to and discuss ideas with.

As a result, he’s now a dedicated mentor in the MultiChoice graduate programme. “We are all still learning but it is a duty to share what you know to make it easier for those who still have to go through it.” — Welcome Lishivha

Dr Joel Modiri (26)

Dr Joel Modiri (26)

Lecturer, Department of Jurisprudence, University of Pretoria

At the age of just 26, Joel Malesela Modiri has obtained a PhD in law and is a lecturer in the department of jurisprudence at the University of Pretoria. He has over 15 publications in academic journals under his name. He has edited books and delivered papers internationally and nationally.

He serves on the Section 11 Equality Committee of the South African Human Rights Commission and was selected as an Inaugural Fellow for the Atlantic Fellowship for Racial Equity (housed at Columbia University, New York, and the Nelson Mandela Foundation) and is regularly voted by students as Best Lecturer.

His doctoral thesis examined the philopraxis of Black Consciousness that Steve Biko articulated in his life and writings which represents a political philosophy of justice and a critical approach to law and jurisprudence. He teaches jurisprudence and legal philosophy at the University of Pretoria where he is among one of the first scholars to introduce critical race theory in the university. “My work has had to contend not only with the conceptual and demographic whiteness of the legal academy but also with conservative and liberal insistences on colour-blindness, race denialism and blatant racism,” he says. This underpins his desire to see the legal academy contemplate possibilities for liberation, decolonisation and historical justice in South Africa and beyond.

Amid the challenges of introducing ideas of Black Consciousness in a legal academy that’s also steeped in a culture of whiteness, Modiri has also had to overcome the racism present in his day-to-day life. “Like all Black people, I regularly encounter racial condescension and have to deal with largely untransformed institutional spaces.
Like all young people, the pressure to be the best or the first at something can weigh heavily on one’s self-esteem. Building community and collaborating with comrades and friends has been my way of making sure that both the habitual racism of South Africa and the unrealistic expectations of quick success do not become debilitating and demoralising,” he says.

While in school, Modiri participated in debating and public speaking and took an interest in world history and politics. His dream of being a hotshot lawyer quickly gave way to his intellectual interests in legal and political theory where’s now excited to be teaching.

“What I find both challenging and exciting about working in higher education today is the responsibility of delivering bold, conscientious and educated citizens who can make a positive difference to our society and to the world.” — Welcome Lishivha

Kayaletu Tshiki (28)

Kayaletu Tshiki (28)

Lecturer, Fort Hare University

Growing up, Kayaletu Tshiki was constantly chased away from school for not paying school fees or not having the full school uniform. While in school, he began to work as a gardener to raise enough money and help with school necessities such as stationery and uniforms. “For me the biggest struggle was access to resources, especially coming from a poor background. I knew I had to work three times more than my peer born on the other side of town to access university,” which he did.

Currently lecturing law at the University of Fort Hare, Tshiki graduated from the University of Sussex in 2014 with an LLM (cum laude) after being awarded the Mandela Scholarship. After completing his LLM, he established his own law firm, Tshiki and Associates, where he is a director.

Through his firm, he’s been able to develop the skills of new graduates and offer employment to the youth. Tshiki has dedicated his legal career to serving poor communities to access law and justice. Starting from his days as a candidate attorney at the Rhodes University law clinic where he was part of a team advocating for the rights of the marginalised groups — ranging from the aged, abused women, farm workers and vulnerable employees who were exploited by their employers — to the work he’s currently doing with his own law firm. The firm has partnerships with several NGOs in the Eastern Cape which they provide pro bono legal services to in certain public interest cases. The firm also provides free legal training on constitutional rights, wills and estate planning.

Tshiki is part of a team that founded the Entrepreneur In Me network which creates a platform for young entrepreneurs by connecting them with established business leaders and potential funders. He also co-founded Future Shapers, a youth-led career planning and guidance initiative for students in public schools.

He was chosen as a Mandela Washington Fellow for 2017 and is a member of Discovery Legal Service Company, a legal insurance company providing tailor-made insurances solutions for low-income earners within the Eastern Cape. “My continued sense of discomfort on issues pertaining to lack of access to resources is the fuel that has ignited in me the fire to do something about my condition, my community and ultimately my country.” — Welcome Lishivha

Lauren Kohn Goldschmidt (35)

Lauren Kohn Goldschmidt (35)

Senior lecturer at UCT, co-founder and director of and expert legal consultant

Lauren Kohn Goldschmidt is an admitted attorney, a business owner, a creative thinker and mother of two. She founded a legal advice website and is an expert legal consultant, a PhD candidate at Leiden University and a senior lecturer in public law at UCT.

Her enthusiasm for law and compassion for those on the margins of society inspired her to start her own company, SA Legal Advice which seeks to make legal services more affordable, accessible and expedient for the public through an online platform with well-qualified attorneys. “The idea for the business had its inception in 2013 when my husband and I (both lawyers) felt frustrated at the fact that much of what we do does not help the people who need it most given the structural constraints of how the legal fraternity operates,” she says. They established the company after much frustration with the legal fraternity selling time at exorbitant rates to the relatively small portion of the population who can afford it. “I love knowing that my legal know-how is reaching the so-called ‘man on the street’ at the click of a button,” she says.

Being the first in her immediate family to enjoy the benefit of tertiary education, she completed all three of her degrees on scholarships and strongly values education. An article flowing from her thesis was published in the 2013 edition of the South African Law Journal which she considers a career highlight.

After completing her LLM, she took up a teaching position at the UCT law faculty in constitutional and administrative law, where she enjoys generous student support, demonstrated by her nomination for a UCT Distinguished Teacher Award. “I truly come alive when I teach. I don’t take for granted what it means to inspire future lawyers, politicians, judges, thought leaders and activists of our country. I wake up excited every day to do what I do,” she says.

Although she loves what she does and is constantly in high spirits, she has also endured difficult challenges such as seeing her mother through cancer and losing her father in 2017 on the day of her baby shower. She says it’s these challenges that inspire her to keep pushing. As a woman in an industry that is still dominated by men, she is also a strong believer in the importance of women’s solidarity in striving to shatter glass ceilings. — Welcome Lishivha