Hlaleleni Kathleen Matolo-Dlepu
Current Chairperson of the Legal Practice Council of South Africa.
Current Commissioner of the Judicial Services Commission of South Africa.
Past Co-chairperson of the Law Society of South Africa.
I grew up in a rural village where I witnessed one of the great injustices of the Apartheid regime: forced removals. At the tender age of three years old I was taken, along with my family, from the home my grandfather built with his own hands and from the beautiful, fertile, fruit orchards I once roamed, to a dark, desolate, and arid place where we were forced to live in tents. In my teenage years I witnessed the Soweto Uprisings where my peers rebelled against the Apartheid government for forcing their oppressive language as the main medium of instruction in schools. These two incidents made me acutely aware of injustice and made me determined to do something to achieve justice for those who have been disenfranchised. These events, among others, motivated me to pursue a legal career. In the early stages of my career, I saw that there were few opportunities for women attorneys. This encouraged me to establish a woman-owned firm that focused on mentoring emerging women attorneys. This has been and continues to be my passion to this day.
My advice to other Women in Law is to firstly be comfortable in your identity and secondly to set clear goals. Competition is healthy but it shouldn't form the basis of your career. Always leave the door open behind you for other women to enter.