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Mandela Rhodes Foundation mourns the passing of former Trustee Justice Yvonne Mokgoro

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Mandela Rhodes Foundation mourns the passing of former Trustee Justice Yvonne Mokgoro

The Mandela Rhodes Foundation (MRF), one of President Nelson Mandela's three official legacy organisations, mourns the passing of South African legal trailblazer Justice Yvonne Mokgoro. She died Thursday 9 May 2024, aged 73, in Johannesburg.

Published 10 May 2024

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Her illustrious legal career will leave an indelible mark on South Africa's legal landscape. Her dedication to justice, equality, and human dignity has had a profound impact on our nation, and her legacy will continue to inspire generations to come.

Shortly after the end of apartheid, Justice Mokgoro was appointed by President Mandela to the newly formed Constitutional Court of South Africa, becoming the first black woman to serve on the bench. Her tenure spanned a full 15 years before her retirement in October 2009, marking a distinguished career dedicated to justice and equality.

A strong advocate for the rule of law and respect for the principles enshrined in the country’s constitution, Justice Mokgoro was an avid proponent of reconciliation and national cohesion. She is famously known for having said in a 1995 court case, that “Although South Africans have a history of deep divisions characterised by strife and conflict, one shared value and ideal that runs like a golden thread across cultural lines is the value of Ubuntu”.

In addition to her tireless legal career, Justice Mokgoro served for 20 years as a Founding Trustee of The Mandela Rhodes Foundation; contributing her valuable expertise, wisdom, and passion to empowering the next generation of African leaders through education and leadership development. Her leadership, guidance, and unwavering commitment to our organisation has left an enduring imprint on our work and values.

MRF Chair, Justice Kate O’Regan said, "As we grieve the passing of my dear judicial colleague and sister, Justice Mokgoro, we also honour her remarkable life and lasting legacy. Her commitment to the vision of our Constitution never wavered and her own personal integrity and dedication inspired all around her. May her legacy of dedicated public service, moral  courage, kindness and wisdom live on in those that follow in her footsteps.”

MRF CEO Judy Sikuza added, “Words cannot express what this loss means to us as a Foundation, and to South Africa at large - especially given that this year is the 30th anniversary of our democracy as South Africa. Justice Mokgoro was an inspiration to many, especially to young, black women. Her appointment as the first ever Black female Justice to the Constitutional Court of South Africa in 1994 gave us the mandate that we too could be anything we dreamed of, as we contributed to the betterment of our country.

In all my dealings with her over the years, she showed deep vision, compassion, pursuit for justice, and courage to challenge all of us as South Africans and Africans at large to continue the spirit of Madiba in all that we did. She will be sorely missed. Rest in peace mama wethu. We will not tire in our efforts to make our continent just for all, as you always encouraged.”

Justice Mokgoro will be dearly missed by Trustees, current and former staff of the MRF, and by the Mandela Rhodes Scholars she interacted with. We extend our deepest condolences to her family and broader community of friends whose lives we know she touched as deeply as she did with all us at the MRF.

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