Judge Theron holds a BA and LLB from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and an LLM from Georgetown University in the US, having won a Fulbright scholarship in 1990.

Judge Theron’s curriculum vitae, her interview before the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and crucially her track record both as an advocate at the KwaZulu-Natal Bar and her appointment as the first black female judge at the age of 33, speak volumes about an individual who beat the odds and succeeded. Her entrepreneurial flair was evident when she started a sweet-making business at the age of 12 years, to pay for her schooling and cover the cost of music lessons.

During her interview with the JSC, Judge Theron recounted a life not wholly uncommon under apartheid. Particularly interesting in response to a question about fluency (or lack thereof) in isiZulu, Theron said that despite having a Zulu grandmother from Umlazi, a township reserved for black people, her grandmother saw opportunity in reclassifying as “coloured” to access better housing in Wentworth (a ‘coloured’ township). The fear of being found out by the authorities resulted in her grandmother banning isiZulu in the household.

Judge Theron’s landmark judgments in relation to customary law, gender justice and gender-based violence will add to the expertise of the Constitutional Court. Her resolute commitment to the Constitution and Rule of Law bode well for South Africa.

By Ms Zohra Dawood: Director, Centre for Unity in Diversity 

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