Voice to the voice­less

Feli­cia Ken­tridge: 1930-2015

CityPress - - Voices - – Gail Behrmann

Johannesburg-born Feli­cia Ken­tridge died at her Lon­don home – aged 84 – on June 7 this year af­ter a long ill­ness. In 1952, she mar­ried Syd­ney Ken­tridge, al­ready ad­mit­ted at the Bar and known as coun­sel for the de­fence in many fa­mous po­lit­i­cal tri­als.

Feli­cia ob­tained her Bach­e­lor of Laws in 1953 from Wits Univer­sity and was ad­mit­ted to the Johannesburg Bar in 1956. Dur­ing the 1960s, she had a pri­vate law prac­tice and in the 1970s per­suaded the Wits law fac­ulty to set up a le­gal clinic, which of­fered free ser­vices to the dis­en­fran­chised dur­ing apartheid.

In 1979, af­ter ini­ti­at­ing dis­cus­sions with ac­tivists and le­gal pro­fes­sion­als, she co-founded the Le­gal Re­sources Cen­tre, a public-in­ter­est law firm, with fel­low ad­vo­cate the late Arthur Chaskalson. Lady Feli­cia pro­vided le­gal as­sis­tance to clients, ap­peared on their be­half in court, raised funds for the cen­tre and ran train­ing pro­grammes. The cen­tre rep­re­sented vic­tims of bru­tal apartheid crimes and ex­posed the vi­cious op­pres­sion in the coun­try.

Late for­mer pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela de­scribed Feli­cia as a “voice to the voice­less”. She took up a po­si­tion on the Le­gal Re­sources Trust and was its chair­per­son for a num­ber of years. Feli­cia was in­stru­men­tal in set­ting up the South­ern Africa Le­gal Ser­vices and Le­gal Ed­u­ca­tion Pro­ject in the US to aid South African lawyers who fought against the un­just rule of law dur­ing apartheid.

In 1981 she and her hus­band moved to Lon­don, where he was prac­tis­ing at the Bar, and she com­muted be­tween Lon­don and Johannesburg, even­tu­ally set­tling there per­ma­nently.

Af­ter Syd­ney’s knight­hood in 1999, the Gen­eral Coun­cil of the Bar be­gan an an­nual grant, the Syd­ney and Feli­cia Ken­tridge Award, for ser­vice to the law in south­ern Africa. In later years, Feli­cia be­came a pain­ter. Al­most 36 years since its in­cep­tion, Feli­cia’s vi­sion for the Le­gal Re­sources Cen­tre – to con­trib­ute to the hu­man rights of all in­di­vid­u­als – con­tin­ues in a demo­cratic South Africa. She leaves be­hind her hus­band, four chil­dren, nine grand­chil­dren and a great-grand­child.

Lady Feli­cia

Ken­tridge

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