Justice Thembile Skweyiya

Date of Birth

17 June 1939


1 September 2015


BSocSci (1963) (University of Natal), LLB (1967) (University of Natal)

History at the Court:

Appointed: May 2003

Retired: 6 May 2014

Brief biography

From 1963 to 1964, Justice Skweyiya was a member of the students’ representative council of the University of Natal. From 1968 to 1970 he served his articles of clerkship. In 1970 he was admitted as an advocate of the Supreme Court and become a member of the Society of Advocates in Natal. From 1971 to 1996 he practised as an advocate in Durban.

Justice Skweyiya’s practice initially dealt almost exclusively in commercial and civil matters. From towards the end of 1979, however, his work became more varied and he began handling cases not only in Durban, but in all Supreme Court divisions in South Africa.

From 1971 to 1990 Justice Skweyiya was a member of the Committee of Clemency, which campaigned for political prisoners, people who were banned or under house arrest, and those in exile.

He was also a legal adviser and member of the panel of advisers of SASO from 1973 to 1977, which was when SASO was declared an unlawful organisation.

Justice Skweyiya was admitted as an advocate of the High Court of Lesotho in 1974.

In 1977 Justice Skweyiya became the chairperson and a trustee of the Institute of Black Research, positions he still holds.

From about 1981, the bulk of his work involved human rights and civil liberties cases, including many political trials all over South Africa, which invariably involved political, labour or student organisations (for example the African National Congress, the Pan Africanist Congress, the Black People’s Convention, the South African Students’ Organisation and a variety of others), cases involving the rights of people detained in terms of security laws, and matters involving workers and trade union officials and inquests into the deaths of people in detention. However, from the time Justice Skweyiya took silk in 1989, the focus of his practice shifted back to commercial and civil work. In 1992 the High Court of Namibia admitted him as senior counsel.

From 1979 to 1990 Justice Skweyiya was a member of the Mandela Committee and in 1980 he became the chairperson of the Association for Rural Development.

Justice Skweyiya was a member of the President’s Advisory Committee of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa from 1981 to 1982 and was a trustee of the Black Lawyers Association Legal Education Centre from 1984 to 1990.

He was also a member of the editorial board of the South African Journal on Human Rights between 1985 and 1990.

Between October 1995 and January 2001, Justice Skweyiya served as an acting judge of the High Court in the Natal and Eastern Cape Divisions for various periods (two years in all). He took up a permanent appointment on 1 February 2001.

Justice Skweyiya acted as a judge of the Constitutional Court from August 2001 to the end of May 2002.

Justice Skweyiya has also held many positions in the world of business, including:

  • chairperson of Worldwide African Investment holding (Proprietary) Limited, KFM Radio (Proprietary) Limited and Zenex Oil Limited;
  • deputy chairperson of Fortune Beverages Limited and the SA Tourism Board;
  • director and vice-chairperson of Fasic Investment Limited;
  • director of Fedics Group Limited, Lion Match (Proprietary) Limited, Gold Circle Racing and Gaming, the Premier Group Limited, Southern Bank of Africa Limited; and
  • member of the regional advisory board of Nedcor Bank KwaZulu-Natal.

Justice Skweyiya has also attended and participated in several local and international law conferences, and has spoken and presented papers at some of them.

Selection of Judgments written