Minister Lamola renames Justice College in honour of Ambassador Brigitte Mabandla

July 11th, 2024

The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, relaunched the newly renamed and refurbished, Brigitte Mabandla Justice College in Pretoria on 24 May 2024. During his speech, Mr Lamola pointed out that he had no doubt that the newly transformed Brigitte Mabandla Justice College would make moulding the minds of future legal practitioners practical. He noted that in 2006 at the Unisa campus he had made a commitment to lifelong learning. He said that the opening of the Brigitte Mabandla Justice College signified government’s commitment to invest in lifelong learning for its employees to improve service delivery.

Mr Lamola pointed out that the Justice College, which was established in 1957, has long been a cornerstone of the South African justice system. He added that across the globe, public sector institutions face significant challenges particularly in light of economic constraints and growing public debt. Mr Lamola added: ‘Despite these hurdles the demand for quality services remains steadfast. This predicament prompts us to question how we can sustain and enhance service delivery while bolstering our resilience.’

Mr Lamola said that chapter 13 of the National Development Plan 2030, titled ‘Building a capable and developmental state’, underscores the importance of developing technical and specialist professional skills within the public sector. He said that it emphasised the need to produce specialised technical skills essential for fulfilling core functions and providing career paths for technical specialists. He said in the rapidly evolving society, technology plays a transformative role as the rise of digital justice presents new opportunities and challenges, as articulated by Professor Jane Donoghue in the Modern Law Review journal.

Mr Lamola added that the Brigitte Mabandla Justice College must lead discussions on these innovations and contribute to the scholarly discourse through research and development initiatives, including the establishment of a dedicated journal. He said it was fitting that the Department named the Justice College after Ambassador Mabandla, a trailblazer who played a pivotal role in shaping South Africa’s (SA) democratic landscape. He said that Ambassador Mabandla is one of the country’s foremost constitutional experts. He pointed out that as the first Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Ambassador Mabandla resonates profoundly and her advocacy for women’s rights within the liberation movement exemplifies courage and commitment to change.

Ambassador of South Africa to Sweden, Bridget Mabandla with Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, at the relaunch of the Justice College which was renamed the Bridget Mabandla Justice College.

Ambassador Mabandla said: ‘It is with immense gratitude and deep humility that I stand before you today. I am profoundly honoured by this extraordinary recognition of having the Justice College renamed after me. This is a moment my family and I will cherish for the rest of my life.’ She said that when she reflects on the journey during the 30 years of democracy, she is reminded of the countless social partners, multilateral partners, academics, human rights activist, and public servants whose commitment and hard work shaped the country’s path. ‘These are the thousands who believed in a shared vision for a united, democratic South Africa free from racism, oppression, and discrimination in all forms.’

Ambassador Mabandla pointed out that she recalls in particular the hard work of women during the negotiations of the constitution-making process. She added that the Women’s National Coalition was to be a platform at which women build consensus about the future constitution and the place of women in democratic SA. She said that the Constitution is an important outcome of the determination to build a good dispensation embracing a culture of rights. She added that as the then Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development she followed her predecessors, with the reform agenda. The values and prescript of the Constitution were to guide the promotion of inclusivity, which was a priority.

Ambassador Mabandla said that the late former President Nelson Mandela appointed individuals of distinction in the legal profession. She pointed out that two women were appointed to the Constitutional Court then, namely, Justice Kate O’Regan and Justice Yvonne Mokgoro. She said the first Constitutional Court in the democratic era was representative. She also paid tribute to the late Justice Mokgoro, saying that SA lost a great woman. ‘I am deeply saddened by her untimely passing. Justice Mokgoro has left an indelible legacy for generations to come,’ Ambassador Mabandla said.

Ambassador Mabandla pointed out that the Justice College remains a critical task of the National Development Plan. ‘I applaud the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Mr Ronald Lamola and the Director General Advocate Doc Mashabane for their visionary leadership.’ She added that she was pleased that the Justice College continues to work in the Southern African Development Community region training personnel from neighbouring countries. Ambassador Mabandla spoke on gender-based violence and femicide. She stressed that it is a scourge the country must fight, as well as sexual harassment in the workplace and all forms of gender discrimination. ‘I would advise the College to integrate into its curricula a clearly defined gender justice programme. This is for our nation’s development.’

Mr Lamola said: ‘In honouring Ambassador Mabandla we honour her leadership and dedication to inclusivity. Let us emulate her example by prioritising the marginalised and embracing the principles of servant leadership.’

South African Women Lawyers Association (SAWLA) President, Nomaswazi Shabangu-Mndawe, while giving a message of support said that the Brigitte Mabandla Justice College is a very important institution. She pointed out that many legal luminaries began their journeys at the college. She encouraged interpreters who were graduating on that day to walk in the shoes of the late Justice Pius Langa. She said the start of their journey as interpreters is their path to the Constitutional Court.

Ms Shabangu-Mndawe also thanked Ms Mabandla for believing in women. She pointed out that when Ms Mabandla was the Minister of Justice, she started a programme for women in the legal profession, that SAWLA is Ms Mabandla’s programme. She further thanked Ambassador Mabandla for her continuous support for SAWLA. ‘To the Minister and DG thank you for renaming this college the Brigitte Mabandla Justice College while she is still alive. While she is still able to accept and acknowledge it. Most of the time we like to acknowledge our people when they have passed on’ Ms Shabangu-Mndawe said.

Judge President of the KwaZulu-Natal Division of the High Courts and President of the South African Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges, Thoba Poyo-Dlwati, congratulated Ambassador Mabandla. She thanked the Department of Justice for honouring Ambassador Mabandla by naming the Justice College after her. She also shared with delegates and the graduates that Justice Baratang Mocumie was once a student and a lecturer at the Justice College and that she is a Justice of the Supreme Court of Appeal. ‘We all know it starts with education, so if you put yourselves to it there is nothing you cannot achieve,’ Judge President Poyo-Dlwati said. She told the interpreters that were graduating that they are an integral part of the justice system and that the justice system cannot function without interpreters. ‘Do your job with pride and excellency for the people of this country. So that the freedom that Mama Brigitte Mabandla and others fought for can be realised,’ Judge President Poyo-Dlwati added.

Deputy Chief Justice of South Africa Mandisa Maya gave a lecture at the event. She started by joining Ambassador Mabandla in mourning the late Justice Yvonne Mokgoro, who she referred to as one of SA’s greatest daughters. She pointed out that it was an honour for her to speak about the legacy of an icon, a visionary figure who has over the years displayed exceptional leadership qualities and unwavering commitment to a vigorous fight of freedom, justice and equality and the protection of the rights of women and children.

Deputy Chief Justice Maya shared Ambassadors Mabandla’s CV. One of the significant tasks mentioned by the Deputy Chief Justice was Ambassador Mabandla’s effort to ensure the repatriation of the late Sarah Baartman’s remains to SA. Ambassador Mabandla became the first and last woman to be appointed the Minister of Justice. Deputy Chief Justice Maya pointed out that Ambassador Mabandla served as the Minister with utmost distinction. She worked tirelessly to reform the justice system, ensuring it became more accessible, expanded and equitable. Deputy Chief Justice Maya added that Ambassador Mabandla’s leadership was characterised by her unwavering commitment to justice and upliftment of women in the judiciary.

Deputy Chief Justice Maya said that Ambassador Mabandla constructively used her position to positively advance the integration of women in the judiciary and justice as a whole. She added that Ambassador Mabandla identified legal training as an important tool to help elevate women not only to the Bench but reposition them within the institution.

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

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