Ad­vo­cate ful­fils late dad’s dream

Ngcukaitob­i on brink of achiev­ing ‘silk’ sta­tus af­ter me­te­oric rise in pro­fes­sion

Daily Dispatch - - News - KATHRYN KIM­BER­LEY

At the age of seven, a young boy in Cala vowed to fin­ish what his fa­ther could not.

And now, af­ter just eight years at the Jo­han­nes­burg bar, ad­vo­cate Tem­beka Ngcukaitob­i hopes his nom­i­na­tion for silk sta­tus has his old man look­ing down on him with pride.

It’s hard to know re­ally, hav­ing lost his dad, Gcin­a­bantu Hutchin­son, at such a young age, but the no­tion of hav­ing achieved that dream fills Ngcukaitob­i, 41, with an over­whelm­ing sense of achieve­ment.

He now awaits the nod from Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa so that he can add the two most de­sired let­ters in le­gal cir­cles – that of “SC” – be­hind his name. “It is a sig­nal hon­our be­cause the rec­om­men­da­tion comes from my col­leagues at the Bar, in­clud­ing ju­nior coun­sel and se­nior coun­sel,” he said.

“But it is daunt­ing as well. Good ad­vo­cacy is com­pli­cated by the need for con­fi­dence and self-doubt at the same time,” he added this week.

Ngcukaitob­i ob­vi­ously has both qual­i­ties, as an ad­vo­cate is usu­ally only con­sid­ered for silk sta­tus af­ter 12 years at the Bar.

The young ad­vo­cate gripped SA’s at­ten­tion when he formed part of the EFF le­gal team ar­gu­ing for the state cap­ture re­port to be re­leased in the North Gaut­eng high court in 2016. Many said he out­shone his se­nior col­leagues and even “stole the show”.

Since then he has au­thored a book on the his­tory of black lawyers, land dis­pos­ses­sion and con­sti­tu­tion­al­ism, ti­tled The Land Is Ours: South Africa’s First Black Lawyers and the Birth of Con­sti­tu­tion­al­ism, and signed a con­tract with Penguin for pub­li­ca­tion in 2020 for The Trial of Robert Man­gal­iso Sobukwe: An Epic and a Tragedy.

Ngcukaitob­i re­cently rep­re­sented Nel­son Man­dela Bay ANC coun­cil­lor, Andile Lungisa, con­victed of as­sault­ing a fel­low DA coun­cil­lor, in the high court in Makhanda, where he cut his teeth as a young lawyer un­der the guid­ance of East­ern Cape High Court judge Clive Plas­ket.

With a spe­cial­i­sa­tion in pub­lic, labour, com­pe­ti­tion and land law, in March 2014 Ngcukaitob­i was ap­pointed as an act­ing labour court judge, and in June 2015 be­came an act­ing judge in the land claims court.

“I am an ac­tivist. I be­lieve in the role of pol­i­tics as a cat­a­lyst for eco­nomic and so­cial change. Law is im­por­tant be­cause it dis­ci­plines and con­trols the prac­tice of pol­i­tics,” he said.

“With­out the rule of law, there would be ar­bi­trary and ex­ces­sive use of po­lit­i­cal power, in the name of the peo­ple, but against their in­ter­ests. Although I take on cases with po­lit­i­cal un­der­tones, I am al­ways aware that so­cial change will not come from from po­lit­i­cal ac­tion.

“So the point of law is then the chan­nelling of po­lit­i­cal en­ergy to the right ends.”

Asked what his views were on for­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s coun­sel not be­ing per­mit­ted to do his open­ing ad­dress in Zulu, and if he felt the courts still had a long way to go in terms of trans­for­ma­tion, Ngcukaitob­i law, but said the main fail­ure of the state was that it had not made in­dige­nous lan­guages, lan­guages of record.

“We are com­pelled to speak Eng­lish even though the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple in this coun­try speak African lan­guages. How­ever, although lan­guage plays a pow­er­ful sym­bolic role, it would be a mis­take to re­duce the slow pace of trans­for­ma­tion to lan­guage.

“Prob­lems of ac­cess to le­gal ser­vices, costs of ad­ju­di­ca­tion and the slow pace of judg­ment de­liv­ery present ma­te­rial bar­ri­ers to an ac­ces­si­ble jus­tice sys­tem. Most of these are prac­ti­cal prob­lems which can be re­solved.”

Ngcukaitob­i ob­tained de­grees from Wal­ter Sisulu Uni­ver­sity and Rhodes Uni­ver­sity and also lec­tured at Nel­son Man­dela Uni­ver­sity.

Ngcukaitob­i’s fa­ther died in an ac­ci­dent in 1983, when he was just six years old.

In Xhosa tra­di­tion, one year af­ter some­one passes away, there is a cer­e­mony in which pos­ses­sions are dis­trib­uted to the fam­ily.

This was when – for the first time – Ngcukaitob­i spot­ted his fa­ther’s law books and learned that he had been study­ing law through Unisa.

“His own stud­ies in law were com­pli­cated by apartheid. He was in his 30s when he started read­ing for law, hav­ing worked in the mines be­fore. But it was also cut short by death, hav­ing died at the young age of 38.

“I think a cul­mi­na­tion of his own dream through his son must fill him with sat­is­fac­tion. If not him, then I think I am per­son­ally happy to have achieved his dream,” Ngcukaitob­i added.

Pic­ture: GALLO IM­AGES/ BEELD/ FELIX DLANGAMAND­LA

CALA’S PRIDE: Ad­vo­cate Tem­beka Ngcukaitob­i is on the verge of be­ing awarded silk sta­tus by Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa.

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