Event: A lecture by Justice Zak Yacoob
When: Tuesday, October 16, 2012, 5 - 6:30 p.m.
Where: Ceremonial Moot Courtroom
Justice Yacoob was one of South Africa’s most prominent civil rights lawyers during the apartheid era, representing anti-apartheid defendants in some of the country's major trials. He was also a key figure in the drafting of the South African Constitution and was appointed to the Constitutional Court in 1998 by Nelson Mandela. He is the author of several notable opinions including that of the Grootboom case, a seminal case on the nature and scope of the Constitutional guarantee of socio-economic rights.
Justice Yacoob’s visit is part of a longstanding relationship with the South African legal community that has brought five other justices from the country’s Constitution Court to the law school. As visiting scholars, they have shared unique personal insights about the drafting and evolution of the South African Constitution, considered by many to be one of the most progressive in the world.
In addition to hosting the justices’ visits, the law school places students at the University of Cape Town Law School for a semester and in other South African cities where they pursue externships working for civil or human rights law organizations. In spring 2013, Funmi Ojetay, a 2012 alumnus, will begin a clerkship in Johannesburg for South African Deputy Justice Dikgang Moseneke.
Justice Zak Yacoob was born in Durban and blinded at 16 months as a result of meningitis. He attended Durban's Arthur Blaxall School for the Blind from 1956 to 1966 and then studied for a BA at the University College, Durban, now the University of Durban-Westville (UDB), majoring in English and private law. In 1972 he earned his LLB at UDW and practiced until 1981 as a junior counsel, representing many people prosecuted for contravening security laws, emergency measures and other oppressive legislation. He also represented victims of unfair evictions and people who were required to pay unfair tariffs and the "Durban Six" in negotiations with the British government when they occupied the British Consulate in Durban in 1984 in protest against apartheid and unjust laws. From 1985 until 1988 he was part of a team that defended officials and members of the United Democratic Front and its affiliates in the Delmas Treason Trial. He also represented the accused in the "Vula" trial, which involved high-ranking members of the African National Congress, in 1990 and 1991, all while maintaining a significant and diverse commercial and general legal practice. In May 1991 Justice Yacoob took silk and became an advocate.
From 1981-1991 Justice Yacoob served as a member of the executive of the Natal Indian Congress and in that capacity organized and took part in protests, produced and distributed publicity material, and organized and addressed many anti-apartheid mass meetings.
Justice Yacoob also was a member of the Technical Committee on Fundamental Rights in the negotiating process. He served on the Independent Electoral Commission from December 1993 to June 1994 and was a member of the Panel of Independent Experts of the Constitutional Assembly. He has also advised local-government bodies, the National Land Committee and the Department of Finance.
Justice Yacoob married in 1970, has two adult children (a daughter and a son) and has lived in Durban almost all his life.