‘The law pro­fes­sion is an ex­cit­ing pur­suit, like all con­tests’

Finweek English Edition - - Cover -

WIM TREN­GROVE,

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-

tion.”

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