Justice Yvonne Mokgoro was a judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa from its inception in 1994 until the end of her 15 year term in 2009
She was born in Galeshewe Township near Kimberley and matriculated at the local St Boniface High School in 1970. She studied mostly part-time, obtaining the Bachelor of Law (B.luris) degree at the University of Bophuthatswana, now North West University in 1982, the Bachelor of Law (LLB) two years later, and completed Master of Laws (LLM) in 1987. She also studied at the University of Pennsylvania in the USA, where she was awarded a second LLM degree in 1990
She started her work-experience as a nursing assistant and later as a retail sales-person before her appointment as a clerk in the Department of Justice of the erstwhile Bophuthatswana. After completion of the LLB 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 Associate Professor and served there until 1991. From 1992 to 1993 she served as Associate Professor at the University of the Western 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 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 United States and 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, focussing on 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 has participated in a number of research projects and held positions on the boards of a number of civil society organisations, including community-based organisations :
She served on the Advisory Committee of the South African - Canadian Linkage Project, from its inception in 1994 until it ceased operations in 2004. From 1995-2005 she was President of Africa Legal Aid, (AFLA) a civil society organisation, which provides legal aid and human rights education throughout Africa and is based in Accra, Ghana, with satellite offices in Maastricht (Netherlands) and Pretoria (South Africa). She currently serves on a number of boards, and Trusts, including the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund which she chairs, Mandela-Rhodes Trust, the South African Institute where she heads the Curriculum Development, the International Committee Institute of Judicial Education, the South African Police Services (children’s) Education Trust (where she serves as Deputy Chairperson) and is a member of the African Centre for Justice Innovation (ACJI). She served as Chairperson of Venda University Council from 2002 to 2009.
She 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 the Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) by the University of North West, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the University of Toledo (Ohio) USA, University of the Western Cape, University of Pretoria, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits),University of South Africa and the University of Pennsylvania (USA). She is a recipient of a number of other honours and awards, including the Educational Opportunities Council scholarship to study in the USA (1989-1990) the Women’s Law and Public Law Fellowship, by Georgetown University Law Centre, Washington DC (1990), the Human Rights Award by the Black Lawyers Association, (1995) the Oude Molen Reserve Order of Merit (1995/1996), the Legal Profession’s Woman Achiever Award by the Centre for Human Rights, and the University of Pretoria (2001), University of the North School of Law Excellence Award (2003), the Kate Stoneman Democracy Award (Albany Law School, New York, U.S.A (2003), the Tshwane Outstanding Service Award (TOSA) in 2006 and the James Wilson Award by the University of Pennsylvania Law School [(Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (2008). She has also been appointed to serve as Special Ambassador for the University of Venda (University Council, 2009), and has been selected by the President of South Africa as an official Advocate for Social Cohesion in South Africa (2013-2018).
She holds membership of the International Women’s Association (Washington DC) and the International Association of Women Judges, the International Federation of Women Lawyers and the South African Women Lawyers Association, and in 2006 was selected as an icon of the history of Women Lawyers in South Africa.
She also served as Chairperson of the South African Law (Reform) Commission from 1995 until the end of a third term in 2011. She served as a Judge in the Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ) from 2011 to 2013 where her work entailed the exercise of oversight over the administration of the OCJ and the implementation of the OCJ mandate. In a nutshell the role of the OCJ entails the enhancement of the independence of the South African Judiciary as per Section 165 of the South African Constitution and supportive laws
In January 2012, she was appointed as Chairperson of the Independent Panel of Experts to investigate the circumstance of the incident in (stampede) that occurred at the University of Johannesburg South Africa during the student’s registration and which resulted in the death of a parent, reporting to the University Council.
She is also been appointed in 2013 to chair a Tribunal which will investigate the ethical conduct of the President of the Lesotho Court of Appeal. The investigation is currently on-going