Justice Yvonne Mokgoro

Date of Birth

19 October 1950


B.Iuris (1982), LLB (1984), LLM (1987) (University of Bophuthatswana – now University of the North West); LLM (University of Pennsylvania)

History at the Court:

Appointed: 13 October 1994

Retired: 11 October 2009

Brief biography

Justice Mokgoro started her working life as a nursing assistant and later as a salesperson before her appointment as a clerk in the Department of Justice of the erstwhile Bophuthatswana. After completion of her LLB degree, she was appointed as maintenance officer and public prosecutor in the then Mmabatho Magistrate’s Court.

In 1984, she was appointed a lecturer in law in the Department of Jurisprudence, University of Bophuthatswana, where she rose through the ranks to associate professor and served there until 1991. From 1992 to 1993 she served as an associate professor at the University of theWestern Cape, from where she moved to the Centre for Constitutional Analysis at the Human Science Research Council, serving as Specialist Researcher (Human Rights) and also lecturing on a part time basis at the University of Pretoria until her appointment to the Constitutional Court.

Throughout her legal career she has taught a number of courses, including, constitutional law, human rights law jurisprudence, history of law, comparative law, criminal law, private law and customary law at a number of universities in South Africa, the United Kingdom, theUnited States and the Netherlands. She has written and presented papers and participated in a myriad of national and international conferences, seminars and workshops in South Africa and internationally, mainly in sociological jurisprudence with particular emphasis on human rights, customary law and the impact of law on society generally, and on women and children specifically. She has served extensively as a resource person in this regard for non-governmental and community-based organisations and other initiatives in South Africa and internationally.

During her academic career, she participated in a number of research projects and held positions on various non-governmental organisations, including community-based organisations.

She is the current chairperson of the South African Law (Reform) Commission and has served on that body since 1995. She has served on the Advisory Committee of the South African-Canadian Linkage Project from its inception in 1994 until it ceased operations in 2004. From 1995 until 2005, she was president of Africa Legal Aid, a non-governmental organisation which provides legal aid and human rights education throughout Africa and is based in Accra, Ghana with satellite offices in Maastricht in the Netherlands and Pretoria. She currently serves on a number of boards, university councils and trusts, including the boards of the Nelson Mandela-Rhodes Trust and the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria. She is also the chairperson of Venda University Council.

Justice Mokgoro has also served as chairperson of the Selection Committee of the Press Council of South Africa (which appoints the Press Ombudsperson and members of the Press Appeal Board).

She is honorary (emeritus) Professor of Law at the University of the North, University of the Western Cape, University of Cape Town,University of Pretoria, and the University of South Africa. She has been conferred with honorary doctorates by the University of North West, the University of Natal, the University of Toledo (Ohio) USA, the University of the Western Cape and the University of Pretoria. She is a recipient of a number of other honours and awards, including the Educational Opportunities Council scholarship to study in the USA from 1989 to 1990, the Women’s Law and Public Law Fellowship by Georgetown University Law Centre, Washington DC in 1990, the Human Rights Award by the Black Lawyers Association in 1995, the Oude Molen Reserve Order of Merit in 1995/1996, the Legal Profession’s Woman Achiever Award by the Centre for Human Rights and the University of Pretoria in 2001, the University of the North School of Law Excellence Award in 2003, the Kate Stoneman Democracy Award (Albany Law School, New York, U.S.A) in 2003, the Tshwane Outstanding Service Award in 2006 and the James Wilson Award by the University of Pennsylvania Law School (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) in 2008.

She holds memberships of the International Women’s Association (Washington DC), the International Association of Women Judges, the International Federation of Women Lawyers as Interim President of the South African Chapter and the South African Women Lawyers Association.

Selection of Judgments written