A hero, an activist, a giant and legend in the legal profession – rest in peace Lutendo Benedict Sigogo

September 1st, 2021
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On 31 July 2021, the legal profession was shocked to hear the announcement that legal practitioner and Acting Judge of the Mpumalanga Division, Lutendo Benedict Sigogo had passed away in Polokwane, due to COVID-19 complications. Upon receiving the news of Mr Sigogo’s passing, the Minister of Justice, the Judiciary and various organisations released statements on Mr Sigogo’s passing.

Media statements

A statement released by the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services stated that Minister Ronald Lamola was saddened by the passing of Mr Sigogo. The statement added that Mr Sigogo was a formidable advocate for transformation in the legal profession. Minister Lamola said: ‘We have lost [a] dedicated champion of transformation. His contributions will undoubtedly form the pillars of a representative and accessible service to our people. Our thoughts and prayers are with his beloved family during this period of mourning.’

The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) – where Mr Sigogo served as a revered commissioner – said in its statement that death has robbed the people of South Africa (SA) of not just a legal practitioner but of a true leader in the legal profession. Meanwhile, the Chairperson of the Legal Practice Council (LPC), Kathleen Matolo-Dlepu, in her statement, said that the LPC has lost one of its hardest working members, who was committed and did his work with enthusiasm and diligence. Ms Matolo-Dlepu pointed out that Mr Sigogo’s loss is immeasurable and has left a big void within the legal profession and the LPC.

The Black Lawyers Association (BLA) said in its statement that Mr Sigogo joined the BLA just after his admission as a legal practitioner of the High Court of South Africa in 1998. The statement added that he occupied various leadership positions in both the BLA, as well as in the then known provincial law societies. The statement added that the transition from erstwhile law societies was made much easier by his contribution as part of the National Forum on the Legal Profession, a body established by the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014 (LPA), to manage the transition.

The BLA said that as part of the National Forum, Mr Sigogo was always eager to lead the debate about the future of the legal profession under the new dispensation. The BLA pointed out that when the first elections of the LPC was held it was natural for legal practitioners to elect Mr Sigogo as one of their members. ‘For him leadership was not an exercise in self-aggrandisement. It was a selfless commitment to the tasks at hand and ever-present preparedness to pave a way forward amidst doubt and uncertainty. His understanding of the BLA and its values was unmatched’, the statement said.

Lutendo Sigogo at the Black Lawyers Association’s 40th Anniversary and Annual General Meeting held in Bloemfontein in 2018.

The BLA added that Mr Sigogo was one of the former leaders of the organisation whose wisdom will be continued to be used for guidance and counsel. ‘He was forever prepared to lend [guidance and counsel] equally. His love for humanity shone through in everything he did. He was always attentive to the other voice and forever prepared to forge unity and consensus without sacrificing the ideals of transformation of the legal profession that lie at the very foundation of the BLA. As the BLA we are proud to claim him as one of our own. We have been enriched by his leadership,’ the statement said.

The National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADEL) said Mr Sigogo was a justice activist. The statement added that it was under Mr Sigogo’s leadership that saw the BLA and NADEL stand side-by-side in the first LPC election. NADEL pointed out that its members who have served with Mr Sigogo, attest to his upright character and hail him as a fighter for equality and justice.

NADEL added that Mr Sigogo, did not slow down against those opposing transformation and his work at the LPC is recorded as one of a true voice of the aspirant and previously disadvantaged. ‘He was steadfast and unwavering in his commitment to wanting integrity in the legal profession. This was perfectly balanced by his compassion towards those who made mistakes as he always looked for redeeming facts to rehabilitate those who had fallen,’ NADEL said.

NADEL added that Mr Sigogo was an avid reader and a fearless debater who always made meaningful contributions in building a unified legal profession. A humbled and disciplined man, a great listener, and a great problem solver. ‘We are sure that he enters the other side of eternity greeted by a crowd of witnesses hailing him for the work done in the legal profession. As a Pan Africanist lawyer, we are sure that amongst the crowd of witnesses are the likes of Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe who will say to him “you have done well and epitomised what we meant when we said true leadership demands complete subjugation of self, absolute honesty, integrity and uprightness of character, courage and fearlessness, and above all, a consuming love for one’s people”’, NADEL added.

The Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) added that it was saddened by Mr Sigogo’s death who served as its council member for many years. ‘The LSSA expresses its sincere and heartfelt condolences to the bereaved members of his family and prays for his soul to rest in peace in eternal glory,’ the statement said.

President of the LSSA, Jan van Rensburg, added: ‘The death of Mr Sigogo is a huge loss to the legal fraternity. We honour his legacy and mourn his loss alongside his family, friends, and the legal profession. Mr Sigogo was a member of the LSSA Council for many years and was at the forefront of the LSSA’s transformation and the Transitional Committee
that moved the LSSA and the attorney’s profession into the Legal Practice Act dispensation. The legal profession has lost a person of great wisdom and foresight, and his contributions to the profession were immense. He will be dearly missed.’

Memorial service of Mr Sigogo

On 4 August 2021, at the memorial service that was held for Mr Sigogo, the Chairperson of the Polokwane Legal Practitioners Association, Podu Mdhluli said that she was grateful that God had given her the opportunity to have lived in the time of Mr Sigogo. She pointed out that Mr Sigogo was a man of exceptional excellence, a man who worked very hard, and gave his life to the legal profession. She said that one thing about a name is that it lives beyond, even if one has been given a farewell in a physical form, his name will live on.

Ms Mdluli pointed out that Mr Sigogo was a man of integrity. She shared a story on how, years ago while it was election season at the BLA, she overheard some members saying how Mr Sigogo was just ‘black and white’, that there was no working around him, because he was good like that, clean and full of integrity. She added that the Polokwane Legal Practitioners Association was proud to have been associated with Mr Sigogo, that the organisation was grateful for the legacy he left behind, the legacy that young black legal practitioners would live up to.

The BLA provincial chairperson in Limpopo, Director Makhafola, added that Mr Sigogo had started with him in the BLA Limpopo Branch. He pointed out that the organisation had lost a shining star. He said Mr Sigogo was not just a leader, but also a friend. He said the Limpopo Branch was very proud of Mr Sigogo, that they knew that wherever Mr Sigogo went, he represented the branch with exception and always made sure that people knew he was a member of the BLA and belonged to the BLA’s  Limpopo Branch.

Lutendo Sigogo sharing a joyous moment with retired Justice Bess Nkabinde and Black Lawyers Association’s Secretary General, Mabaeng Denise Lenyai, at Justice’s Nkabinde’s special ceremonial session that was held on 7 December 2017 at the Constitutional Court.

The President of the BLA’s Student Chapter (BLA SC), Shandukani Mudau, said that Mr Sigogo’s departure is and will continue to be a hard pill to swallow, as his passing was tragically premature. She pointed out that during and after his term as the president of the BLA, Mr Sigogo worked hard with the student chapter to improve their analysis and insight on how the student chapter should view the future of aspirant legal practitioners.

Ms Mudau added that the most remarkable thing about Mr Sigogo was his selflessness and good will. In one of the tributes read by Ms Mudau, the first BLA SC female president, Pearl Biyela, wrote that as the first female BLA SC president, Mr Sigogo never once made it seem as her being a female was a call for preferential treatment and this was the case with all other female executives in ad hoc structures. Ms Biyela in her letter pointed out that Mr Sigogo valued women in leadership and made sure that there was never a sense of inequality.

The BLA’s National Secretary General, Mabaeng Denise Lenyai, said that it was difficult to refer to the late Mr Sigogo, as former everything, because he is still present in her mind. Ms Lenyai pointed out when she first met Mr Sigogo, she was still the chairperson of the BLA Northwest Branch, comfortable in that position. However, Mr Sigogo took her out of her comfort zone and put her in the middle of the fire when he told her, it was time to take her rightful place in the National Executive Committee of the BLA.

Ms Lenyai said that Mr Sigogo told her that it was comfortable being in leadership, but it is not about the comfort, it is to ensure that one becomes a solution to the challenges that the organisation and the rest of the country are encountering. She added that Mr Sigogo had a drive to collect sanitary pads and one would think that Mr Sigogo would ask her to speak, however, Mr Sigogo chose to speak himself. She said Mr Sigogo told her that he was a father to girl children, that he wanted to teach girls about the journey of moving from being a young girl to a woman and that there is nothing shameful or sinful about menstruation.

Ms Lenyai pointed out Mr Sigogo never missed an opportunity to turn occasions into moments. She said that during one of the trips to Lusikisiki, as per normal when they went to donate items and give talks, the community would normally prepare some lunch. However, she said the community was one of the most destitute communities, and they had not prepared anything, but one of the pupils at the school, came and offered her and Mr Sigogo a peanut butter and jam sandwich. Ms Lenyai said Mr Sigogo accepted the sandwich and turned the lunch into a picnic.

LPC Council member, Anthony Miller, said that Mr Sigogo was a consistent person. A man who followed one course and did not deviate, or show a different face to his family, colleagues, the judiciary and in whatever capacity he acted, he was consistent in his principles and in the way he conducted himself. Mr Miller added that Mr Sigogo never held back in doing what was right. He said Mr Sigogo’s life demanded notice, exemplified brilliance, inspired emulation, and burnt so bright that other paths were lit.

Mr Miller pointed out that Mr Sigogo was a strategic thinker, a visionary and he was innovative. He added that Mr Sigogo was sincere, honest, fearless, and loyal.

Judge President of the Mpumalanga Division of the High Court, Francis Legodi,
in his tribute said Mr Sigogo carried warmth, kindness and love for people. He read a message that was written by a fellow JSC commissioner, which read that during Mr Sigogo’s period as an acting judge, he wrote seminal judgments of great quality. Judge President Lergodi said he did not know there was something like a seminal judgment.

Judge President Legodi pointed out that in a judgment written by Mr Sigogo on 21 June 2021 (Advent Oil (Pty) Ltd v Vuletjeni Trading and Projects (Pty) Ltd (MM) (unreported case no 4262/2019, 21-6-2021) (Sigogo AJ)), Sigogo AJ, presented litigants and legal practitioners who would drag their matters, name of concurrent jurisdiction, between the main and local seats of the court.

Judge President Legodi said that in his judgment Sigogo AJ reported as follows:

‘A period of more than [two] years has lapsed since the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development had, on 26 April 2019, determined the areas under the jurisdiction … of the Mpumalanga Division of the High Court. By now it should have been settled how territorial jurisdiction of this division operates. In the contrary this case is a living example that many litigants still approach territorial jurisdiction of the High Court in the manner it was under the Superior Court Act 59 of 1959 … .

Out of habit, without giving attention to the proclaimed jurisdictional boundaries of this division the applicant issued court process falling under the Middleburg area of jurisdiction, in the main seat [which is in Nelspruit] on the wrong belief that the main seat, like the position in other divisions, exercises concurrent jurisdiction with the local seats.’

Judge President Legodi added that in para 8 of the judgment, Mr Sigogo stated that:

‘Consideration of convenience and expense in these circumstances inevitably will … be practiced in favour of the dominus litis much to the inconvenience and expense of the respondent/defendant. The Superior Courts Act aims to correct this situation. This is the position because it resonates well with section 34 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa … . The promise of the right of access to justice, as enshrined in section 34 of the Constitution is a promise that will be realised if litigants are given access to courts in their locality. Otherwise, the right of access to justice would not [be] worth the paper it is written on if dominus litis will continue [to] be allowed to choose to litigate in a court far away from the respondent’s/defendant’s resident in the name of concurrency of the court’s jurisdiction, in the process making access to justice for the respondents or defendant unattainable.’

Judge President Legodi said that in his judgment it seemed that Mr Sigogo knew that he would no longer be able to speak for the people of Mpumalanga, in the few weeks to come, as if he would no longer be able to speak for the ordinary people of society on the right to access to justice and courts and in the judgment he does so for the last time. ‘[As] if that is what he wanted to convey when he handed down the judgment on 21 June 2021. We just want to say as colleagues, this judgment will forever be a living document, not only for the Division and the people of Mpumalanga, but for the country as a whole,’ said Judge President Legodi.

Judge President Legodi spoke of the warmness, kindness and love carried by Mr Sigogo for others. He shared a story about a letter that Mr Sigogo had written to him about one of the staff members of the Mpumalanga Division of the High Court, Welcome Mavimbela. Judge President Legodi pointed out that he received an e-mail from Mathobo, Rambau and Sigogo Attorneys (MRS Inc), and without reading the letter he asked himself what he had done. ‘As I started reading the letter, tears dropped,’ added Judge President Legodi.

The letter read as follows: ‘This year I had an opportunity to be appointed as an Acting Judge of the High Court Mpumalanga Division in Mbombela. This was a very wonderful experience and an eye opener on what goes on behind the scenes in the administration of justice. I really appreciate the honour afforded to me to serve at this level. During this time, I worked with several secretaries who all do their best to ensure that the judges dispense justice in as convenient manner as possible. Without comparing them, I believe it will not be fair on my part if I do not single out one of the members of the support staff, for the dedication and hard work, that he puts in his task.

Lutendo Sigogo led the Black Lawyers Association (BLA) march to the Union Buildings in July 2017 to voice the BLA’s dissatisfaction on legal work distributed by government. This was during his term as President of the BLA.

I am not suggesting for a moment that he is the best, I did not work with all the people in the office. In him I saw an outstanding amount of dedication, which deserves to be mentioned. In the fourth term, I had an opportunity to work with Mr Mavimbela, as my secretary for the five weeks of my acting stint. I was impressed in the manner, Mr Mavimbela dedicated himself to his work. He is a serious person who was always punctual. For the five weeks I have worked with him, I have never reminded him of a task to be undertaken, as he kept his diary and mine ever updated.’

In his letter, Mr Sigogo told Judge President Legodi that he would like him to know about the quality staff in the Mpumalanga Division. Judge President Legodi pointed out that he was ashamed that the months he spent working with the staff, he did not recognise that there was gold among the officials in his Division. However, it took Mr Sigogo only five weeks to identify that goodness in the official mentioned.

Judge President Legodi shared another story between Mr Sigogo and Mr Mavimbela. He said that on 5 May 2021, Mr Mavimbela, underwent a serious throat operation. A lump was removed from his throat. The doctors found out that there was cancer in the lump and were worried that the cancer had spread throughout his body. Judge President Legodi added that Mr Mavimbela had to go for further tests in Pretoria. He said that Mr Sigogo and his wife Khangale Sigogo drove to see Mr Mavimbela after he was discharged from hospital and even paid for his travel and refreshment costs.

‘Imagine what kind of nation we would be, if we were to do what Lutendo and his wife did,’ said Judge President Legodi. Judge President Legodi added that we need to be thankful to Mr Sigogo’s parents for the son they have raised.

Mr Sigogo’s daughter, Tshiisaphungo Sigogo, said her father was a role model to her, her siblings and everyone around him always looked up to him. She added that he was a man of character and most importantly he handled every situation in a dignified manner. ‘He never raised his voice at us and was never too quick to react. He would always take his time in assessing anything, it could be a question, a statement, or a problem. And only when he is satisfied with his response, he would respond and that would be his final say,’ Ms Sigogo said.

Ms Sigogo said when her very first semester in university came to an end and she had to go home, instead of using public transportation, her father, Mr Sigogo organised a mini family trip. ‘My dad drove all the way from the Free State with all my siblings and our mother on a Friday. He had a meeting to attend the following day, which was a Saturday, so he multi-tasked and drove us home, while he had headphones on, so that he could still participate in the virtual meeting,’ she added.

Ms Sigogo said her father was a hard-working man who was patient about his work as he was being a father to her and her siblings. She pointed out that the lesson she learned is that good things come to those who work hard.

Mr Sigogo’s wife, Khangale Sigogo, wrote a tribute to her husband, which was read by her sister-in-law. In her tribute she said that she had never imagined that she would have to write a tribute so soon in their marriage. She said that their love was and will always be special to her. She described Mr Sigogo as a gentleman who took care of her and had big plans for their children. He was perfect in his fatherly duties and she thanked him for that. She promised to raise their children the way Mr Sigogo would have wanted.

Funeral service

The funeral service of Mr Sigogo was held on 5 August 2021. One of the Directors of the MRS Inc, Lufuno Godfrey Mathobo said he had known Mr Sigogo for 30 years and they had been working together for 22 years. He pointed out that Mr Sigogo was a good man, a man of high moral standards and integrity. He added that Mr Sigogo was an enemy of corruption at all costs and that Mr Sigogo was born a leader. ‘This is evident from all the institutions and bodies he led,’ Mr Mathobo said. He added that Mr Sigogo, did not only lead outside organisations, but he also contributed to steering MRS Inc into the direction it is in today.

Mr Mathobo pointed out that Mr Sigogo always emphasised that MRS Inc should always contribute to training more legal practitioners, as well as giving candidate legal practitioners an opportunity to have vocational work in their offices. He said that the BLA and BLA SC was in Mr Sigogo’s heart, and he and Tshavhungwe Lizzy Rambau noticed the passion Mr Sigogo had for the BLA and as a result the two directors took a resolution to support Mr Sigogo in all aspects. Mr Mathobo said among other things Mr Sigogo wanted to deal with disparities between black and white legal practitioners and the result of his commitment and support he made his way to being the President of the BLA and the then Law Society of the Northern Provinces.

LPC chairperson, Ms Matolo-Dlepu, said that Mr Sigogo was a younger brother to her. She pointed out that she first served with Mr Sigogo in the BLA, when she was the Deputy President of the BLA and again when they were deployed to represent the BLA in the National Forum. Ms Matolo-Dlepu said that Mr Sigogo was a calm person, a leader of note, and that his emotional intelligence surpassed many of his peers.

Ms Matolo-Dlepu added that leadership positions never excited Mr Sigogo. She said she prays that his peers who come after him emulate his maturity in dealing with positions of power, as Mr Sigogo was a transformation agent. ‘We all know that our profession is the least transformed, and one of the obligations and mandate as black legal practitioners, was to make sure transformation happens in our lifetime’, Ms Matolo-Dlepu added.

Lutendo Sigogo photographed with businessman Sello Rasethaba, who was a guest speaker at the Black Lawyers Association’s Annual General Meeting in 2017.

Former President of the BLA, Busani Mabunda, said that Mr Sigogo’s names ‘Lutendo Benedict’ had a serious meaning to what he was. Mr Mabunda said he found out the meaning of the two names, ‘Lutendo’, which meant prayer, and ‘Benedict’, which is a Latin name that means blessed. After this, it was difficult to craft a tribute for a hero, an activist, a moving encyclopaedia of Mr Sigogo’s stature, calibre, integrity, and purpose.

Mr Mabunda said that in 2011 in the BLA conference that was held in Mafikeng, Mr Sigogo was elected Secretary General under Mr Mabunda’s leadership. He added that there was an irony to Mr Sigogo succeeding him as the President of the BLA. ‘We called each other, and he made an unqualified pledge to support my leadership, because as we were conversing, I told him my contest was not a question of if I will win, but when it happens,’ Mr Mabunda added.

Mr Mabunda pointed out that Mr Sigogo engaged, followed, and understood the process, as well as the assignments given to him to discharge the mandate. He said that because of the unwavering confidence, which he reposed in Mr Sigogo, when he introduced him to the National Bar Association (NBA), the BLA’s counterpart in the United States, he unshakingly introduced Mr Sigogo as the incoming President of the BLA, and indeed Mr Sigogo became the President of the BLA. Mr Mabunda read a message of condolence from the NBA, were they expressed sympathy with the Sigogo family, the BLA, the judiciary and the legal profession. The letter spoke about the impact Mr Sigogo brought to the organisation. That in his term as the president of the BLA, Mr Sigogo led two of the largest delegations of South African legal practitioners to the Annual Convention hosted by the NBA, one that was held in New Orleans in 2018 and the other in New York in 2019. The NBA said Mr Sigogo’s commitment to it was unquestionable.

Mr Mabunda said that the legal profession is mourning the loss of an icon who with his untimely death had left the legal profession waiting for his immense contribution. Mr Sigogo went over and beyond what he was already called for and delivered on earth. He added that Mr Sigogo’s contribution to the LPA was exceptional. He pointed out that Mr Sigogo made a lot of single-handed submissions, when he was given a mandate by the BLA to do so, and these were presented in Parliament, including the submission on the Road Accident Benefit Scheme Bill B17 of 2017, which the Minister of Justice is aware of.

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, said when he left the Cabinet meeting to drive to Mr Sigogo’s funeral, President Cyril Ramaphosa, told him to convey his deepest condolences to the family of Mr Sigogo. Mr Lamola said he knows the Sigogo family has been devastated by the passing of three family members, namely Mr Sigogo’s father, Edward Ntshavheni Sigogo, who passed away on 14 July 2021, Mr Sigogo who passed on 31 July 2021 and Mr Sigogo’s sister, Mutondi Tshamaano Vele, who passed on 2 August 2021. He told the family that they are not mourning alone.

Mr Lamola pointed out that what people become in life and what people do in life, especially men in a patriarchal society is not only a reflection of the societal institutions, which models individuals but it is also a reflection of the type of people who brought us into the world. He comforted Mr Sigogo’s widow and children and said he knows that it does not make sense when a husband and a father, a person whose warmth they will never feel again, passes away. He added that he hoped Mr Sigogo’s legacy will continue to nurture his children and give warmth to the family.

Mr Lamola said that the country has lost a true patron, who was committed to justice. He added that the community has lost a selfless servant and a role model. He pointed out that he first met Mr Sigogo not in a physical sense, but as the legend, whom he had heard of and the role he played at the University of Venda. He said they were told about a fearless and very skilful champion in student politics, as well as in the leadership of the law council. He pointed out that he later met Mr Sigogo in the circles of the BLA, and he (Mr Sigogo) without fail had lived up to his reputation.

‘What struck me was his articulate, methodical and very thoughtful way of communication. His words had the effect of piercing through a room very sharply without him raising his voice,’ Mr Lamola said. He noted that Mr Sigogo was an epitome of black excellence and a champion of transformation. Mr Lamola added that Mr Sigogo was competent and committed, that his attitude towards transformation of the judiciary was clear, he never sent mixed signals or messages. He never changed his principles or focus on the tools of transformation.

Lutendo Sigogo at the then Cape Law Society Annual General Meeting that was held in 2017.

Mr Lamola pointed out that Mr Sigogo’s contribution as a commissioner of the JSC was immense, even with the pen, he raised issues that could not be ignored even though the ink had dried. Mr Lamola referred to a passage in one of the articles Mr Sigogo wrote in De Rebus (‘The BLA celebrates its 40th anniversary in October: We have come this far because we stand on the shoulders of giants’ (2017 (May) DR 13)), which reads as follows: ‘We owe it to the coming generations to address the challenges facing us today in a manner that they will look back and appreciate the role we would have played.’ ‘Indeed, we will look back and appreciate your role Mr Sigogo’, Mr Lamola added.

Mr Lamola pointed out that in the last conversation he had telephonically with Mr Sigogo, Mr Sigogo had called to enquire about the progress of the Legal Sector Code and how far the process was to being gazetted. ‘I am pleased to inform this gathering that we are at an advanced stage of finalising the Legal Sector Code, because of his contribution, the LPC, NADEL
and other stakeholders in the legal profession’, Mr Lamola said.

Mr Lamola added that the Legal Sector Code will play a significant role in transforming the briefing patterns and the legal profession across the board. He pointed out that Mr Sigogo was also passionate about the matter of the Silk status. He said that they are at a consultative stage, a positive development, towards having a transparent legal profession, which activists, such as Mr Sigogo had advocated for. Mr Lamola said the LPA will forever be a memory of what activists of transformation can do if they unite and organise themselves, behind the progressive imperative. ‘This Act has Mr Sigogo’s DNA in it,’ Mr Lamola added.

Mr Sigogo’s mother, Ndivhudzannyi Emelinah Sigogo, said her son loved his siblings very much. She shared a story about how after Mr Sigogo and his partners at MRS started their law firm, Mr Sigogo was invited to one of the schools in their community to give a motivational talk, to the learners there. Mrs Sigogo said that after Mr Sigogo’s talk, a few days later the principal of that school came and told her there was a problem at the school as all learners wanted to take history, so that they could study law and be like Mr Sigogo. ‘I thought he was just influential, I did not know he was a giant,’ Mrs Sigogo added. She pointed that Mr Sigogo used to help any person who needed help, and that he loved his parents very much.

Memorial by the Mpumalanga Division

On 13 August 2021, Judge President Legodi, the judges in his division and staff held a memorial for Mr Sigogo. Judge Brian Mashile said he met Mr Sigogo while he was a member of the BLA, however, they never interacted on a personal level, but only on an official level. He added that their second encounter was when Mr Sigogo was an Acting Judge at the Mpumalanga Division. ‘I was very shocked when the Judge President called me and said Lutendo had been admitted to hospital and he suspected that he had COVID-19. I jokingly said he will recover, I know he is a very strong man,’ Judge Mashile said.

Judge Mashile pointed that life is a journey, which is different for everyone. He added that we all take different paths but during the journey of life, one learns and passes those experiences on to others. He pointed out that Mr Sigogo accomplished a lot in short space of time and that his spirit will live on in the judgments he handed down.

Deputy Judge President, Segopotje Sheila Mphahlele, in her tribute to Mr Sigogo, said that Mr Sigogo’s celebration of life, is of a life well-lived. ‘When I was listening to my colleagues and the support staff, I was reminded that people will remember you on how you made them feel,’ she added.

Lutendo Sigogo photographed with the then Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces and now Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Thandi Modise, at a special ceremonial session for retired Justice Bess Nkabinde, that was held in 2017.

Deputy Judge President Mphahlele said she would refer to Mr Sigogo as a giant in a tiny body. She took an opportunity to thank the Sigogo family for Mr Sigogo, she added that she was saying thank you to the family because charity begins at home. She described Mr Sigogo as person who had warmth, respect and was well-mannered, caring and a great leader and a true gentleman. Deputy Judge President Mphahlele, pointed out that Mr Sigogo, was always interested on matters affecting others. Interested in the transformation of the legal profession not only for him, but for those who will come after Mr Sigogo’s generation.

Deputy Judge President Mphahlele pointed out that in the interactions they had with Mr Sigogo he was an all-rounder. ‘I remember when he discovered that I am Roman Catholic, he told me so much about my church. He knew so much and even recommended a book to me. And when I delayed to buy that book, he sent it to me,’ Judge President Mphahlele added. She said that one day when they were seated in the judges room, Mr Sigogo gave the judges a talk on COVID-19. She added that it was unfortunate that Mr Sigogo was educating them about the disease that would be the one that took him.

Mr Sigogo’s bother, legal practitioner, Lindelani Sigogo SC, said that the Sigogo family appreciates the honour and the privilege that the Mpumalanga Division of the High Court under the leadership of Judge President Legodi has extend to his family in paying tribute to his brother. ‘Words cannot sufficiently express our appreciation to you and to all here present today, including the entire staff in this division,’ Mr Sigogo SC said.

‘It was through your leadership that my brother was called to the Bench, and we are comforted to know that Acting Judge Sigogo was a loved member of your family. He was able to contribute to the jurisprudence of this country through the opportunity given to him by this division,’ Mr Sigogo SC added. He pointed out that his brother was appointed as an Acting Judge for a period accumulating just under a year and through this, he left a giant footprint as it is apparent from the judgments that he penned in his time.

Mr Sigogo SC shared some of the experiences that were shared by others since the departure of his brother, regarding his work. ‘Recently I received a call from one of the senior officials from the South African Revenue Service, regarding a customs related matter that he had a privilege of presiding over. The official saw the surname Sigogo and called me thinking that I was the person who presided on the matter, mainly because it related to tax matters from a customs point of view. His comment was that the decision clarified important matters under the Customs and Excise Act 91 of 1964, specifically s 96 of the Customs and Excise Act, regarding when a litigant is approaching the court on an urgent basis.’ Mr Sigogo SC pointed out that the official was grateful for the judgment. He added that he indicated to the official that it was his brother Acting Judge Lutendo Sigogo, who presided on that matter. He said the family shall forever be grateful to the High Court for the opportunity and the home they provided to Mr Sigogo. ‘May excellence and justice define this division,’ Mr Sigogo SC said.

Messages by the De Rebus Editorial Committee and staff

Chairperson of the De Rebus Editorial Committee and legal practitioner, Giusi Harper, said: ‘Mr Lutendo Sigogo was a past member of the De Rebus Editorial Committee. He was an affable colleague that provided valuable legal input to the committees’ deliberations. His passing is a tragic loss that has left me and those that knew him shocked and deeply saddened. My sincere condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues. May he rest in peace’.

Editorial Committee member and legal practitioner, Maboku Mangena said, ‘31 July 2021 will go down in history as the day Azania, our beloved country and her people lost one of its finest sons. Mr Sigogo was the embodiment of courage and determination. He was constant and consistent in his quest to advance the interests of the legal profession. He was as dependable as he was reliable. We trusted him and had faith in him and his leadership as his name, Lutendo, demanded of us. He was a true inspiration through his exemplary leadership. We will miss his guidance and wisdom during this difficult phase of transition in the legal profession. May his spirit spur us on when the journey gets to be too long, strengthen us when we become weary and bring us into focus when forces of distraction get on our way. So long my brother … so long.’

Lutendo Sigogo, with the President of the Law Society of South Africa, Jan van Rensburg.

The Editor of De Rebus, Mapula Oliphant, noted that during his tenure in the Editorial Committee, Mr Sigogo made sure that he prepared for the Committee meetings by reading all the support documents connected with the articles reviewed and at times even full cases. She added: ‘He never missed an opportunity to show his passion for the law and imparting legal knowledge. He would give the De Rebus team impromptu lessons on complex legal topics in order for us to have a better understanding of topics covered in articles. He contributed in so many ways to the profession.’

De Rebus News Reporter, Kgomotso Ramotsho, said: ‘Mr Sigogo’s sudden departure is a sad and a premature one. His intelligence was beyond amazing. He was kind and treated everyone with respect. When he was chairing conferences during his presidency at the BLA, he made sure that De Rebus was there to cover the events of the day. He acknowledged the journal’s presence and thanked us for the coverage of the news in the legal profession. It has been an honour to be in the presence of this great man. May he rest in peace.’

Mr Sigogo was born on 28 December 1972 at Ngwenani ya ha Themeli village. He was the second born son of the late Edward Ntshavheni Sigogo and Ndivhudzannyi Emelinah Sigogo. He completed his secondary education in 1990 at Thohoyandou Secondary School. He obtained his BProc degree in 1994 and LLB degree in 1996. He started his career as a candidate attorney at University of Venda Law Clinic in 1995 to 1997.

He was admitted as an attorney in 1998. He continued with his studies obtaining his LLM degree at the University of Limpopo in 2001. He worked at Ace Ndou Attorneys, and later at Khathu Mulovhedzi Attorneys in 1999 for a period of six months and was forced to make a career change due to the passing on of the sole director of the firm. This led to a partnership known as Mathobo, Rambau and Sigogo Attorneys being established and practicing under the style MRS Inc. This law firm was formed under his leadership together with Ms Tshavhungwe Lizzy Rambau and Mr Lufuno Mathobo. MRS Inc is one of the longest serving black legal practice partnerships in the country spanning more than 22 years.

Mr Sigogo at various times occupied leadership positions within the legal profession including serving two terms as a treasurer and secretary of the BLA Limpopo Branch in 2006/2008 and 2008/2010 terms. He was the Chairperson of the Limpopo Law Council in 2012/2013. He was the Chairperson of the Thohoyandou Attorneys Association. In 2011 to 2012 Mr Sigogo served in the National Executive Committee of the BLA, first as the Deputy Secretary General and then as the Secretary General. In 2017, he was elected as the President of the Law Society of Northern Provinces. This coincided with his term as the President of the BLA for two consecutive terms from 2015 to 2019.

Mr Sigogo was the President of the Law Society of Northern Provinces in 2018/2019, Chairperson of the Finance and Human Resources Committee of the LPC in 2019/2020, as well as the Chairperson of the Enforcement Committee of the B-BBEE Commission. He made his contribution to the transition from the erstwhile provincial law societies to the present LPC, as part of the National Forum. He was a member of the JSC at his untimely death, and an acting judge at the Mpumalanga Division of the High Court in Mbombela.

Kgomotso Ramotsho Cert Journ (Boston) Cert Photography (Vega) is the news reporter at De Rebus.

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2021 (Sept) DR 7.

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