‘The law profession is an exciting pursuit, like all contests’
a senior member of the Johannesburg Bar, is a man who doesn’t want to sit on the margins of existence. Although he’s a very busy man, arranging an interview with one of South Africa’s most respected lawyers is as easy as going to court and listening to a criminal case.
He’s Afrikaans and thinks of himself in the first place as a democrat and identifies with Afrikaners wherever they are. Secondly, he sees himself as a South African and thereafter as an Afrikaans-speaking person who identifies with people who speak Afrikaans.
Trengrove, who once entertained the idea of becoming a journalist, ended up in law. He’s represented the State in the prosecution of Jacob Zuma for alleged fraud and Nelson Mandela in his divorce case against his wife, Winnie Madikizela Mandela.
He does work for the State because he regards himself as a human rights lawyer. “That’s because I think crime has become a human rights issue in SA.”
Trengrove grew up in Pretoria and began to prac-
tise law in Johannesburg in the mid-Seventies. He was attracted to law by his eagerness to be involved with society, and law gave him that opportunity.
Commenting on whether high-profile or celebrity cases put lawyers’ skills to a new test, Trengrove says: “Well, it’s always the case – whether it’s high-profile or not. But it’s an exciting pursuit, like all contests are. You go in there and don’t know what the outcome is going to be. It’s either you win or lose. It’s exhilarating or devastating.”
He’s proud of his involvement in the Richtersveld claim against the State that saw 85 000ha of land in the Northern Cape worth more than R2,5bn returned to the community. “That case (the Richtersveld claim) made a difference to a lot of people – and that’s gratifying.”
Says Trengrove: “My profession is about a personal journey to make a difference to my society.” But do most human rights lawyers work against the State? “I sometimes work for the State in pursuit of criminals because I think it’s important that rampant crime is brought under control.”
He says that the fight against crime would enable SA to maintain the integrity of its Constitution, ensuring that its people are protected.
Trengrove’s wife is keen on seeing him assume a job of a prosecutor to get crime under control. He says: “I’m not there and don’t want to spend my whole life prosecuting people. But I do now make a contribu-