Chief Justice Zondo commends WOZA for recognition of female legal practitioners

September 9th, 2022

From left to right: Vice President of the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA), Eunice Masipa; President of the Law Society of South Africa, Mabaeng Denise Lenyai, with Professional Affairs Senior Manager at the LSSA, Lizette Burger and Dr Lebogang Mpholo.

On 30 July 2022, the Women in Law Awards (WOZA) held a glamourous award ceremony in Johannesburg, where female legal practitioners from around the African continent received awards in 33 nominated categories.

This year, WOZA took it up a notch. when it marked the first standalone award for women in Africa. The keynote address at the ceremony was delivered virtually by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, who started his speech by highlighting two important events that happened in South Africa (SA), namely Banyana Banyana’s win at the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations and the appointment of Justice Mandisa Maya as Deputy Chief Justice.

Chief Justice Zondo said that he commended WOZA for recognising the excellence displayed by women in the legal profession. He added that men in society hardly give recognition to women and are responsible for the gender inequality that exists not only in SA, but in the world. He pointed out that men must take responsibility and play a leading role in addressing gender inequality. ‘I am myself where I am because there are certain women in my life who have made tremendous contributions for me to be where I am. The contribution that was played by Mrs Victoria Mxenge, who was my principal when I was doing my articles is something that I have openly spoke about. She made a tremendous contribution to what I am. My own mother and other women in the profession [also] played a very important role,’ said Chief Justice Zondo.

Director of the Women in Law Awards, Rehana Khan Parker, with the recipient of the Director’s Choice Award, Justice Bubile Shonga from Zambia and Co-Directors of Women in Law Awards, Subashnee Moodley and Morwesi Dlepu.

During his speech he spoke about the good things that women have been doing. Chief Justice Zondo, however, spoke of the not so good news, when he announced that the Judge President of the North West Division of the High Court, Monica Leeuw, was retiring. He said that it means – with Justice Leeuw’s retirement and Justice Maya’s departure from the Supreme Court of Appeal to the Constitutional Court – that there are two women short as Heads of Court. He pointed out that only men will hold the positions of the Heads of Court and, he acknowledged, that it is an embarrassing situation be in in 2022. Chief Justice Zondo said that this must be addressed and pointed out that he is keen to have discussions with women organisations, such as the South African Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges and organisations, WOZA and many others, to try and find a solution on how this can be best addressed. Chief Justice Zondo said that the discussion needs to go beyond that of women judges, adding that it should go as far as female structures within the legal profession, looking at the role that women have and focus on some of the work that female legal practitioners are given. He said that female legal practitioners need to be given lots of work, not only by government but also by the private sector.

Winners of the evening

Legal Practice Council member, Anthea Platt SC and Legal Practice Council, Executive Officer, Charity Nzuza, at the Women in Law Africa Awards held on 30 July in Johannesburg.

Some of the award categories among others included, namely –

The Top African Firm with Five Women Lawyers or Less

  • Winner: Jean Chiazor Anishere (Ofianyi Chambers – Nigeria).
  • First runner up: Folotiya and Chiumya Legal Practitioners (Zambia).

African Law Firm of the Year

  • Winner: CMS.
  • First runner up: NSDV Attorneys.
  • Second runner up: Joachim and Jacobs (Tanzania).

    Southern African Development Community Lawyers Association Chief Executive Officer, Stanley Nyamanhindi received first runner-up award for the Male Champion for Change at the Women in Law Awards.

South African Women Only Law Firm: Zero to five years in practice

  • Winner: Karen Botha Attorneys.
  • First runner up: Carolissen Attorneys Inc.

Male Champion for Change

  • Winner: Francois Terblanche.
  • First runner up: Stanley Nyamanhindi.
  • Second runner up: Phillip Dlamini.

Directors’ Choice Awards: Lifetime Achievement Award

  • Judge Margaret Victor.
  • Justice Bubile Shonga (Zambia).
  • Hlaleleni Kathleen Dlepu.

    Member of the Legal Practice Council, Kathleen Matolo-Dlepu received the Lifetime Achiever Award at the Women in Law Awards in July 2022.

In Memoriam

  • Victoria Mxenge.
The Pinnacle Award

The top award of the evening was the Pinnacle Award, which was awarded to legal practitioner, Soraya Hassim SC, with Linda Kasonde from Zambia as the first runner up and Geline Fuko from Tanzania  as the second runner up.

In her acceptance speech Ms Hassim said she was honoured to have been nominated for the Pinnacle Award. She added that the award is not just about her, but for all the female legal practitioners who have been making strides in their own practices, making strides against all odds. She pointed out that she was not only accepting the Pinnacle Award for herself, but for all the other women who were nominated in the same category as her for the award.

Winner of the Pinnacle Award, legal practitioner Soraya Hassim SC.

Ms Hassim said every single woman who was nominated was deserving of that award. She said that she accepts the award on behalf of the unsung heroes who advance women without seeking any recognition. ‘I accept this award on behalf of all the women who have survived the very difficult profession. They have survived in a profession that has been dominated by men for decades. On behalf of them I accept this award.’ Ms Hassim pointed out that when these women face hardships in the profession many should know that law is not a hobby, but it is their daytime job. She added that she used the term ‘daytime job’, because most, if not all these women, are wives, mothers, grandmothers, who head extended families, and some are single mothers. She said when these women close their office doors the work starts, being legal practitioners is their primary jobs whether it is recognised adequately or not, their nights are not their own.

Ms Hassim commented on the remarks made by Chief Justice Zondo on empowering women and said that it is not good enough for one to say they want to empower women. She added that empowerment means different things to different people. She touched on the issue of gender-based violence and said legal practitioners and society should address this issue, as women have enough challenges to cope with, without having to bear a further burden. She thanked both those who nominated her and those who chose her to receive the Pinnacle Award and said that she acknowledges that receiving the Pinnacle Award comes with great responsibility.

Ms Hassim said: ‘There is no pinnacle for a woman lawyer. This is a responsibility on us women and having accepted the award on behalf of all the women lawyers, we all now have responsibilities. We have got to pave the way forward; we have got to empower women and whether we like it or not we have got to change. We are going to have to lead with change.’ Ms Hassim also received the awards Best in Leadership and Mentorship and Best in Corporate (Practising).

Other recipients of awards

The President of Law Society of South Africa, Mabaeng Denise Lenyai, was named the second runner-up in the category of Best in Property and Construction.

Among other recipients of the awards were –

  • President of Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) and member of the LSSA’s Women’s Task Team, Mabaeng Denise Lenyai, who was first runner up in the category of Best in Property and Construction;
  • Member of the LSSA’s Women’s Task Team, Nomahlubi Khwinana won Best in Criminal Justice; and
  • LSSA representative at the International Bar Association, Tshepo Shabangu received a Special Recognition Award.

For the complete list of the WOZA Africa 2022 winners, visit the WOZA Women in Law South Africa Facebook page at

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

This article was first published in SA Lawyer in 2022 (September) DR 4.

De Rebus