The Standard Bank Top Woman Lifetime Achiever Award 2020 went to Justice Yvonne Mokgoro who was recognised for her lifetime of service in the legal profession, wherein she rose to being a judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa from its inception in 1994 until the end of her 15 year term in 2009. An inspiration to all, Justice Mokgoro has provided critical thought leadership and applied her astute legal mind to nation building in our country.
Justice Yvonne Mokgoro was born in Galeshewe near Kimberley, in Northern Cape, and matriculated at the local St. Boniface High School in 1970. She studied part-time, obtaining a Bachelor of Jurisprudence (B Juris) degree at the then University of Bophuthatswana (now North-West University) in 1982, a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) two years later, and a Master of Laws (LLM) degree in 1987. She also studied at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States of America (USA), where she obtained a second LLM degree in 1990.
Justice Mokgoro started her work experience as a nursing assistant and later as a retail salesperson before her appointment as a clerk in the Department of Justice of the erstwhile Bophuthatswana. After completing the LLB degree she was appointed 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, University of Bophuthatswana, where she rose through the ranks to become Associate Professor and served in that position until 1991.
From 1992 to 1993 she served as Associate Professor at the University of the Western Cape, and later served as a Specialist Researcher (Human Rights) for the Centre for Constitutional Analysis at the Human Sciences Research Council, and also lectured part-time at the University of Pretoria, until her appointment to the Constitutional Court in October 1994.
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, the USA 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 and particularly on human rights, customary law, focusing on the impact of law on society generally, and on women and children specifically.
In December 2015 Justice Mokgoro received the Order of the Baobab in Bronze for “her excellent contribution in the field of law and administration of justice in a democratic South Africa”.
Honourable Mokgoro, you are an inspiration to us all.