August 13, 2009
South African President Jacob Zuma has nominated Sandile Ngcobo LL.M. ’86 to become the country’s new chief justice, responsible for leading South Africa’s judiciary.
“A graduate of the universities of Zululand, Natal, Georgetown Law Centre and Harvard, he will bring a wealth of experience to the task of heading the highest court in the land,” said Zuma.
Ngcobo currently serves as a judge on the Constitutional Court of South Africa, a position to which he was appointed in 1999. His judicial experience includes having also served as a judge on the KwaZulu-Natal Industrial Court (1993), the Western Cape High Court (1996-99), Labour Appeal Court (1997-99), and the Amnesty Committee of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (1998-99). Ngcobo also served as acting judge president of the Labour Court and the Labour Appeal Court.
After receiving a Bachelor of Law degree from the University of Zululand in 1975, Ngcobo was held in detention for a year during the 1976 uprisings in South Africa. After being released, he went on to work in the Maphumulo magistrate’s office. He then joined a law firm in Durban, working as an articles clerk and then as an associate attorney. In the early 1980s, he worked as an attorney at the Legal Resources Centre in Durban, trying public interest civil and criminal cases. (The LRC was one of the only public interest legal organizations operating during the Apartheid era, and was successful in challenging a number of apartheid laws.)
Ngcobo received an LL.B. degree from the University of Natal in 1985 on a Fulbright Scholarship. As a Harvard Law School Human Rights Fellow, he earned his LL.M. from HLS in 1986.
After law school, Ngcobo clerked for the late Honorable A. Leon Higginbotham Jr, the former Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. He then spent several years working as an attorney at Pepper, Hamilton & Scheetz in Philadelphia before returning to South Africa in 1993.
In addition to his extensive judicial experience, Ngcobo has taught at the University of Natal and has been a visiting scholar at New York University School of Law, Columbia Law School, Yale Law School and at Harvard Law School.