The legal fraternity and the judiciary lost a dedicated legal practitioner in Zanele Nkosi

June 1st, 2023

The late Zanele Nkosi was a legal practitioner and Chairperson of the Black Lawyers Association in the North West Province. Ms Nkosi who was also a partner at Setshedi Makgale and Matlapeng Inc, was gunned down in a parking lot leaving her workplace.


Legal practitioner and chairperson of the Black Lawyers Association (BLA) in the North West province, Zanele Nkosi was described as a community hero at a memorial service held for her in Rustenburg on 6 April 2023. Ms Nkosi who was a Director at Setshedi Makgale and Matlapeng Inc (SMNM), was shot in the parking lot while leaving her office on 29 March 2023. The memorial service was attended by legal practitioners, some members of the judiciary, including the Judge President of the Gauteng Division of the High Court, Dunstan Mlambo and members of the community. Mourners, together with Ms Nkosi’s family, shared moments they spent with Ms Nkosi and spoke of how dedicated she was to the legal profession and passionate she was about issues, which included black legal practitioners.

The North West Division of the High Court’s, Deputy Judge President Tebogo Jennifer Djaje, said that Ms Nkosi was a bubbly and lively person. She added that there was never a time that she was with Ms Nkosi that she was not happy. She pointed out that she was a woman who made things happen wherever she was. Deputy Judge President Djaje said that there was no way one could not notice Ms Nkosi, whether they knew her or not. ‘As soon as she walks in, you will feel her presence,’ Deputy Judge President Djaje said. She pointed out that Ms Nkosi took interest in the province’s judiciary and as a chair of the BLA in that province she made sure the channels between the BLA and the judiciary were open. ‘She would invite the judiciary through the BLA to come and address the meetings. It shows that she was interested in the empowerment and the growth of our judiciary,’ Deputy Judge President Djaje added.

Deputy Judge President of the North West Division of the High Courts, Judge Tebogo Jennifer Djaje, spoke at Ms Nkosi memorial services.

Deputy Judge President Djaje noted: ‘It saddens me that Zanele has been taken away from us, when we are celebrating 100 years since women were allowed to practice and be admitted as attorneys and advocates. As women, we go through a lot, we have gone through a lot. We have come from a time where women were not recognised as persons who could practice or be admitted as attorneys. That was in the 1912. In 1923, there was an Act, the Women Legal Practitioners Act 7 of 1923.’ She pointed out that it is now 100 years since females were allowed to practice as legal practitioners, and since then female legal practitioners still struggle, as they are in a profession dominated by males. She added that despite being dominated, here there was Ms Nkosi, a woman of strength, a woman of courage, who comes up and now she has been taken away.  

Deputy Judge President Djaje said Ms Nkosi’s death is not only a loss for her family, colleagues and friends but it is also a big dent to the legal profession. ‘If women are not there, where are we going to get women to come to the Bench? Where are we going to get women in the profession if women are taken away from us. It is very sad that Zanele was taken at an early age, still full of fire, full of motivation, full of courage. We still had a lot to gain from Zanele. Unfortunately, she has been taken away from us, it is really sad,’ Deputy Judge President Djaje added.

Chairperson of the Legal Practice Council (LPC), in the North West Province, Itumeleng Pule, spoke about the encouragement and support Ms Nkosi gave him during election of the LPC.

Chairperson of the Legal Practice Council (LPC) in the North West, Itumeleng Pule said that when there were incidents of black students who were marginalised, Ms Nkosi made sure that she recruited black legal practitioners to join the BLA and made sure that people were taking part and being active in that structure. He pointed out that when nominations for the LPC came, Ms Nkosi told him that he needed to serve on the LPC. Mr Pule said she asked Ms Nkosi why she wanted to nominate him. ‘She said to me if it is not me who else must it be. I looked around and through names of my colleagues and she asked me where I was going? She looked me straight in my eyes, I could not say no, and I said Mazet I will make myself available,’ Mr Pule added.

Mr Pule pointed out that at the time that he was not confident to stand for LPC nominations, Ms Nkosi called him one Sunday after church, inviting him to a meeting where he was told they would be running his campaign for the LPC nominations. ‘That is when I realised that I took this invitation from her lightly to be a part of the LPC. I realised that she meant it. She was about BLA. She was concerned about issues concerning magistrates and judges, as well as issues of the LPC. She wanted to create footprints so that she could have access and ensure that she participates in the legal profession,’ Mr Pule said.

Former chairperson of the Black Lawyers Association in the North West Province, Lucky Mokotedi, said Ms Nkosi was passionate, among other things, about school children.

Former Chairperson of the BLA North West province, Lucky Mokotedi, started by comforting mourners. He said that as a firm believer and Christian, he knows God would not give the family the challenge that is beyond their strength and that God’s time is the right time. He said that Ms Nkosi joined the BLA around 2008/2009 as an ordinary member of that organisation, until she had ultimately worked her way up to be the chairperson of the BLA in the North West. He told the family that the BLA is available should the family need any help.

Mr Mokotedi pointed out that Ms Nkosi was fierce. He said that Ms Nkosi would come up with projects they have never done before as the BLA in the North West. He mentioned that one of the programmes close to her heart was the school programme the BLA is involved in with school children. ‘Zanele was instrumental in us ultimately giving sanitary pads to a number of school kids in and around Rustenburg. She would run with the project from A to Z,’ Mr Mokotedi said. He pointed out that Ms Nkosi had a solution to challenges that they would encounter in their projects. Mr Mokotedi added that Ms Nkosi was a treasure to her law firm and said the firm and her family should take solace that she is resting.

Legal practitioner, Khanyisa Mogale, said Ms Nkosi was dedicated to her work.

Legal practitioner, Khanyisa Mogale, said that she was recruiting Ms Nkosi to join the South African Women Lawyers Association (SAWLA). She pointed out that Ms Nkosi said she had many commitments, but she told Ms Nkosi that she was a jewel and that SAWLA needed her. ‘Zanele was a colleague who happened to be a sister, a goddess, a leader of note. She would encourage, motivate, inspire, and challenges us. She succeeded in not only bringing us together but connecting us as well,’ Ms Khanyisa said. She added that Ms Nkosi built good relationships and friends in the workplace, that allowed her and others to grow too. She pointed out that Ms Nkosi was a good mentor. She added that she respected ethics, respected the courts and respected her seniors at every level.

Ms Khanyisa said that the Judge President of the North West Division of the High Court’s spoke to legal practitioners in that division through Ms Nkosi. She said that Ms Nkosi would call and ask where the women are and tell them that they are needed in that division to go to the Bench. ‘She was very clear in saying that “I have been sent by the powers that be.”’ She said that the Judge President must not think Ms Nkosi never delivered those messages, but Ms Nkosi delivered them very well.

Tribute by family

Zanele Nkosi’s family during her memorial services that was held in Rustenburg.

Ms Nkosi’s aunt, Dr Linda Hlatshwayo described her as a precious jewel, she said that she was cheerful and made everyone laugh. She pointed out that her passing robbed the family. ‘We all loved her so much. She distinguished herself as a loving, cheerful, and hardworking child. That is the reason we felt as the Hlatshwayo family that she should join us on our new journey in the then Mmabatho, now known as Mahikeng and complete her matric. As a female she would become mine and she is still my daughter. Naturally she would become a very important part of the family,’ she said. Ms Nkosi’s ambition and zest for life led her to be someone who would go and be someone great, she said.

Dr Hlatshwayo pointed out that Ms Nkosi gravitated towards a BSc degree, which given her intellect made sense. However, that a few months down the line she changed her mind and went to study law, which was a natural choice. Dr Hlatshwayo said progress has been the theme of the family, she added that Ms Nkosi’s grandfather, even during Apartheid, laid a foundation of educated for women who were to give birth to a whole generation of children armed with purpose, vision and eager to serve.

Dr Hlatshwayo said it was not surprising that Ms Nkosi turned out to be the woman that she was with strong connections, selflessness and committed to her craft. ‘Our child was gifted, when you call and ask a question, you get an answer instantly,’ Dr Hlatshwayo added. She said that the family was shattered and had tears for Ms Nkosi’s daughter, who would have the unfortunate battle of living without the one person who would have given her life for her. She pointed out that the family has lost out on a soul who brought love into their lives. ‘Her spirit left a mark on every person she ever touched, even in her legal career. Her commitment to justice and service were what she would be known for,’ Dr Hlatshwayo.

Dr Hlatshwayo said the vision they had for Ms Nkosi was for her to become the next great female Chief Justice of South Africa. She added that her accolades and commitment would have made her become a Chief Justice. However, she said that plans were derailed by the devil, but the family remains resolute in their pursuit for justice, just as Ms Nkosi was. ‘We would like to employ you as the legal fraternity to look deeply within your various chapters and ask yourselves do we still hold the same legitimacy that we once had within our hearts and minds of the people. Have our lives been reduced to statistics and numbers or are you the ones we need to fight on our behalf. This is my question to you today. My child, our child lived and fought for justice, will she find justice? Will the many other South African families who have been equally robbed find justice? Please help us and restore the dignity of the legal fraternity in this country, and equally regain the confidence, as well as the hearts and the minds of those who matter the most,’ Dr Hlatshwayo said.

Partner at Setshedi Makgale and Matlapeng Inc, Moshanti Makgale, said he had gained a daughter in Ms Nkosi. He said mentioned also that Ms Nkosi was dedicated to sheriff’s work.

Partner at SMNM, Moshanti Makgale said Ms Nkosi’s departure from her family, the legal fraternity, and the community of Rustenburg, has left them much poorer. She added that as Ms Nkosi is being remembered, family, friends and colleagues should remember that God gave them what he described as a torch bearer. Mr Makgale told Ms Nkosi’s family that they had given a daughter whose departure left him speechless and shattered, and similarly the dreams of those who looked up to her as a leader. ‘She was par excellence. It is with regret that we should not be standing to celebrate on the achievements she was designed to obtain, but on her eternal departure,’ Mr Makgale said.

Mr Makgale shared a story of how he met Ms Nkosi. He said Ms Nkosi walked into the chambers dressed in jeans. He asked if she was a legal practitioner, she replied yes and that she wanted to work with him. ‘And I said, amazingly, you come into his chambers, dressed in jeans, and what do you expect me to make of you?’ He added that Ms Nkosi said he must not judge a book by its cover and asked for him to give her an opportunity. ‘We agreed, and we got to work together with Mr Matlapeng and the whole team. Zanele demonstrated a different personality,’ Mr Makgale added. He pointed out that Ms Nkosi was going to be heir apparent of SMNM, after he and Mr Matlapeng retired from the law firm, and would demonstrate that legal practitioners, no matter how black they are, can work together.

Mr Makgale said on the day Ms Nkosi was killed, he had just left the office after they had lunch together. He pointed out that Ms Nkosi was not only an attorney, but she also did sheriff work and worked as Mr Makgale’s deputy. ‘She was meant to go and serve some court processes,’ Mr Makgale added. He said that Ms Nkosi was quite interested in the sheriff’s work. Mr Makgale said those who had just come in to work with them were attracted to her, by the kind of personality she demonstrated and by her approach to dealing with court processes. Mr Makgale said Ms Nkosi had a big heart and was loved by many.

Among those who attended Zanele Nkosi’s memorial was the Judge President of the Gauteng Division of the High Courts, Dunstan Mlambo, sitting next to Judge President of the North West Division of the High Courts, Ronald Hendricks.

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

South African COVID-19 Coronavirus. Access the latest information on: