Book Launch:

Ismail Mahomed:
Liberating the Law

9th December 2020

Johannesburg, Book Launch, Ismail Mahomed, Liberating the Law. South Africa’s first democratically appointed Chief Justice, the late Ismail Mahomed was a philosopher of law, a man of towering intellect. He spent his entire life in service of the law and justice, contributing significantly to laying the foundation for human rights in our country.

The Project Justice Trust with Awqaf SA has published and will be launching a biographical sketch of Chief Justice Ismail Mahomed to honour him 20 years after his passing, Awaf, through its Leaders and Legacy program, is committed to celebrating leaders in diverse areas by publishing books celebrating their contributions. The principal object of the Project Justice Trust is the advocacy and promotion of human rights through research, informal education, and training of young journalists.



Wednesday, 9th December 2020


4:30 PM SAST


Retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke

Address will be followed by a panel discussion with Aneesa MahomedJustice Mahomed Navsa, Professor Thuli Madonsela and Professor Ziyad Motala.

The public will be able to view the launch at

The book traces the life of this intellectual genius who through his oratory powers and deep knowledge of the law was able in difficult circumstances and courts that were hostile to Blacks able to change the common law, introduce the ethos of fundamental rights and change the course of administrative law. As a lawyer he successfully defended many freedom fighters using his creative genius and forensic skills in cross examination and argument to persuade courts that accused persons were entitled to their acquittal. It also reflects on the demeaning nature of the Apartheid state and quiet and culpable acquiescence of judicial officers to apartheid discriminatory laws who turned a blind eye to the fact that he was not entitled to use the robing room, or other amenities set aside for whites only. For twelve years he had to squat in offices of colleagues and have his sandwiches in the foyer or sometimes in toilets. But they could not and did not break his spirit. He became the first black senior counsel (silk) in 1974, the first black judge in a completely male and pale judiciary in 1992, the Deputy President of the Constitutional Court and its intellectual leader and ultimately the first black Chief Justice of a democratic South Africa. The book includes perspectives of eminent colleagues and academics including Dikgang Mosenke, Thuli Madonsela Dennis Davis, Yvonne Mokgoro and many other eminent jurists and lawyers. It also provides some interesting judgments and speeches of Mahomed which are an ample illustration of his intellectual prowess, foresight and exceptional eloquence. Sir Sydney Kentridge ranked among the best lawyers this country has produced has the following to say about him:
“Justice Mahomed became a judge of the High Court in 1991 and was elevated to the Supreme Court of Appeal two years later. Then, after the new Constitution had come into force, he became successively Deputy President of the Constitutional Court and Chief Justice of South Africa. Add to this his judicial appointments in Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia, and one may surely say that there has been no comparable career in the law anywhere in the world.”
The authors and editors are Enver Surty, once Minister of Justice and Deputy Minister of Education, and Dr Q Patel a lawyer, well known and respected journalist and writer, and they must be commended for bringing to life a very distinguished but unsung hero Mahomed’s vision of a human rights culture pre-dated our transition to democracy and our Constitution can be best described as the realisation of the hopes, dreams and aspirations of millions who suffered under the yoke of oppression and who had their inherent dignity violated. We are constantly reminded of his deep love for and understanding of the law, his unmatched oratory skills, his passion and his unwavering and resilient commitment to human rights.

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