Laws oppressing women need to be amended or repealed

February 1st, 2022

Legal practitioner and South African Women Lawyers Association (SAWLA) President, Nomaswazi Shabangu-Mndawe.

For our January/February Women in Law feature article, we spoke to legal practitioner and South African Women Lawyers Association (SAWLA) President, Nomaswazi Shabangu-Mndawe. Ms Shabangu-Mndawe hails from a small town in Mpumalanga called Dullstroom. She was the only child to her late mother. She was raised by her grandparents who passed away while she was a teenager. This led to her not having a place to call home and having to stay with relatives and friends.

Ms Shabangu-Mndawe said in the 80s she became actively involved in politics, and like many of her peers who were fighting the Apartheid regime, she was harassed and detained by the police. Ms Shabangu-Mndawe added that in early 1988, she hitchhiked from Carolina (where she stayed for a year) to Mbombela (Nelspruit), where she enrolled at Sitintile Secondary School and completed her matric. ‘Mr Myanga, the school principal is among the people who contributed to what I am today. He paid for my examination fee and allowed me to wear sandals to school, the only pair of shoes I had at that time,’ Ms Shabangu-Mndawe said.

After completing her matric, Ms Shabangu-Mndawe said that due to a lack of finances, she did not go study for two years, however, after the unbanning of the African National Congress (ANC), comrades who were involved in education started negotiations with the
KaNgwane government to give bursaries to those who wanted to pursue their studies. Ms Shabangu-Mndawe was fortunate to receive a bursary and enrol with the University of the North. In 1994, she received her BProc degree, and in 1996, she completed her LLB at the University of the North. In 1998, she entered into a contract of articles with Hough Bremner Inc Attorneys, a Mbombela based law firm. After her admission as an attorney in 2002, she continued to be a Professional Assistant at Hough Bremner Inc Attorneys until 2004. Ms Shabangu-Mndawe then started a law firm with her partner under the name, Shilubane Shabangu Attorneys. In 2008, she became a sole proprietor and practiced under the name of Nomaswazi Shabangu Attorneys, a 100% black female owned law firm, which employed and mentored female legal practitioners.

Among the many roles she has held over the years and still holds, she was once elected the Deputy Secretary of the Black Lawyers Association (BLA) in the Mpumalanga province in 2006, the Councillor of the Mpumalanga Attorneys Circle in 2007, and the provincial Chairperson of the BLA in 2008. In 2010, she was requested to assist with transformation at the Mpumalanga Regional Court where she acted as a magistrate. In 2011, she became the Councillor of the Law Society of the Northern Provinces (LSNP) until 2018, serving in different committees of the LSNP (namely, the Gender Committee, Pro Bono Committee etcetera). In 2017 to 2019, she was the Deputy Chairperson of the Law Society of South Africa’s Family Law Committee and later appointed as the Chairperson of the same committee. In 2020, she was elected as the President of SAWLA. She is a member of the Mpumalanga Province Legal Practice Council and serving in its committee. She acted as a judge in the Mpumalanga Division of the High Court. Her most recent appointment in 2021, she was called to serve as a Commissioner of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC). In an interview with De Rebus News Reporter, Kgomotso Ramotsho, this is what Ms Shabangu-Mndawe had to say.


Kgomotso Ramotsho (KR): In your own words, what is transformation?

Nomaswazi Shabangu-Mndawe (NM): Transformation to me is when anyone who qualifies regardless of gender or race occupies any position. It is a change that we want to see where we bridge the gap between woman and man, white and black when it comes to opportunities and salaries.


KR: Why is it important that women support each other in the legal profession, especially for leadership roles?

MN: Women are at war in the legal profession, fighting for recognition, fighting to occupy those strategic positions. Women are tired of being led, and they want to lead because they can. There are so many laws still oppressing women, which need to be amended or even repealed. It is for those reasons that we need to support each other as women to occupy those positions so that we can make a difference.

KR: Do you think women can support each other?

NM: Yes, women can support each other. I think we have reached a stage where we have realised that our success depends on us supporting one another. Women have power and we need to pull each other up as we rise.


KR: When where you appointed to the JSC?

NM: President Cyril Ramaphosa had consultations with the leaders of all parties in the National Assembly and the minutes were signed on 6 June 2021. The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Mr Ronald Lamola signed the appointment letter on 8 August 2021.


KR: What is your role at the JSC?

NM: My role together with other commissioners is to identify a suitable candidate to be appointed as a judge and make recommendations to the President of South Africa.


KR: What are the two most important qualities a judge should have?

NM: To me a judge should, inter alia, be impartial and have integrity.


KR: Do you have a book that you have read, that has an impact on how you live your everyday life?

NM: I read different books from politics, motivation, culture, leadership etcetera. The book that I read repeatedly is The Art of War by Sun Tzu.


KR: Do you have a favourite quote that you live by and why?

NM: Be content with what you have. I believe that every person has a destiny, and your ancestors and God will show you the way to reach your destiny, but if you are greedy, you will derail your destiny.


KR: What does a typical day in the life of a SAWLA President look like?

NM: My day starts between 7 am and 8 am by reading WhatsApp and SMS messages, to which I respond. I attend to e-mails and make calls following up on tasks given to members and to my staff at the office. I will thereafter go to the office to attend to my day-to-day office work and in between attend scheduled meetings for the day. When I get home, as a wife and a mother, I will attend to my usual chores. Between 7 pm and 9 pm I will meet with the SAWLA NEC (if it is scheduled for that day) or sometimes with different committees. If I do not have meetings, I will then do other organisational work. I make sure that my everyday time is split between my family, office work, SAWLA and the other activities that I am involved in. By the way in my spare time, I am a dress maker, interior decorator, and an events planner. My day ends at around 2 am.


KR: Who inspires you and why?

NM: My late grandfather, Makhosonke Shabangu. He was a hard worker, very humble, intelligent, and believed in sharing. He wanted the best for me, and I know he is with me in spirit.

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

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2022 (Jan/Feb) DR 21.

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