PIONEER AFRICAN WOMEN IN LAW
Mokgadi Lucy Mailula
The first woman to be nominated for a permanent Justice appointment at the Supreme Court of Appeal
By Nelisiwe Mkhele
Mokgadi Lucy Mailula is a South African High Court judge born in 1958 in Ga-Maphoto, Limpopo. Judge Mailula holds a Baccalaureus Procurationis (BProc) from the University of Limpopo and graduated cum laude in 1981 with her Bachelor of Laws degree from the same university. After her studies, Judge Mailula did her articles of clerkship in a law firm in Pretoria and, after that, she went on to work in the Bophuthatswana Attorney General’s office as a state advocate from 1982 to 1986. She later practiced in the Johannesburg bar.
Judge Mailula has broken two glass ceilings during her legal career. In 1995, a year after the end of apartheid, she became the first Black woman judge in South Africa adjudicating matters at the South Gauteng High Court. She is also the first woman in South Africa to be nominated by the Judicial Service Commission for a permanent Justice appointment at the Supreme Court of Appeal.
Judge Mailula’s achievements go beyond her legal capabilities. She has served as the Chairperson of the University of Limpopo Council, her alma mater, since 2008. She is also the former Vice Chairperson of the Standing Advisory Committee on Company Law in South Africa, a practice area largely dominated by men. In 2007, she was appointed by the President of South Africa as a judge of the Competition Appeal Court. In the same year, Judge Mailula was appointed by the South African Navy as an honorary captain and alternate Chairperson of the Court of Military Appeals. She has also dedicated herself to serving her community by being part of the Board of Governors of Childline Gauteng/ Sunlight Safe House/ Johannesburg Children’s Home between 2010 and 2011. In 2015, Judge Mailula was appointed as the Chairperson of the Parole Review Board – reviewing the parole application of one of the most high-profile criminal cases in South Africa. Judge Mailula has also served as the President of the South Africa Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges (SAC-IAWJ).
Judge Mailula’s achievements have also been recognized internationally. She contributed the chapter, "Gender, Culture and the Law: The South African Experience" to a book compiled by the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women titled "Without Prejudice: CEDAW and the Determination of Women's Rights in a Legal and Cultural Context." Judge Mailula is also a polyglot, speaking eight of South Africa’s eleven official languages.