By Michele Lynda Mugenyi
On August 1, 2021, Prof. Ntombizozuko Dyani-Mhango became the first black woman Professor and head of a department in the Faculty of Law at the University of Pretoria— Dyani-Mhango was named a Professor and Head of the Department of Public Law. This comes a year after her appointment as a Professor in the Department of Jurisprudence at the university.
Dyani-Mhango’s intentions for the Department of Public Law are to tie its courses to the social and political issues
that South Africa faces. According to
Dyani-Mhangi, it is important to consider the role that Public Law plays when considering issues such as South Africa’s former President being accused of corruption, or the government failing to abide by its international obligations. Dyani-Mhango has also stressed the importance of addressing issues raised through student-led protests, such as decolonizing the curriculum and stopping the increase in student fees.
Prof. Dyani-Mhango has over 16 years of experience teaching, conducting research and supervising in the areas of constitutional law, public international law and international criminal law. In addition, she also served as a clerk at the South African Constitutional Court, was admitted as an Advocate of the High Court of South Africa, and is rated as an established researcher by South Africa’s National Research Foundation.
These accomplishments did not come without their fair share of challenges. As Prof. Dyani-Mhango points out in her Amandla! Women to Watch article, she “had to constantly prove [herself] three times more than others” because of her status “as a black South African woman in the academy”. Hurdles that she had to overcome included not being taken seriously in her craft and constantly feeling like a minor. However, Prof. Dyani-Mhango’s ability to overcome her obstacles and keep striving for success within the legal academy are what enabled her to blaze a trail for other black South African women within the legal academy.