Mandisa Maya 2018


Mandisa Muriel Lindelwa Maya was born on the 20th of March 1964 in the Eastern Cape town of Tsolo and grew up in King William’s Town and Mthatha. She matriculated from St Johns College in Mthatha and graduated from the former University of the Transkei with a BProc degree in 1986. She went on to complete her LLB from the University of Natal in 1988 and in 1990, received her LLM from Duke University in the USA on a Fulbright scholarship. 

She began her legal career as an Assistant State Law Adviser in Mthatha in 1991 and in 1994, was admitted to the Transkei Bar. 

Since 1999, she has served as a member of the judiciary in various capacities and in May 2006, she was appointed as a member of the Bench in the Supreme Court of Appeal. Justice Maya served as an acting judge of the Constitutional Court and was appointed as Deputy President of the Supreme Court of Appeal in 2015 and served as Acting President in 2016. In May 2017, Justice Maya became the first woman President of the Supreme Court of Appeal. 

She has served as a member of the Black Lawyers Association, the National Association of Democratic Lawyers and the Commonwealth Association of Law Reform Agencies. In 2004, she founded the South African Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges and remains an active member. She holds various leadership and advisory roles in organisations such as Lawyers against Violence, the SA Institute for Advanced Constitutional; Public; Human Rights and International Law. She serves as a Commissioner on the Judicial Service Commission and as a council member on the SA Judicial Education Institute. She has served as a member and as Chairperson of the South African Law Reform Commission since 2013 and as a board member of the South African Journal on Human rights. 

In 2012, Justice Maya was the recipient of the South African Women Lawyers Icon Award – honoured for the role she plays in empowering and mentoring women in both the judiciary and the broader legal profession. She has delivered 114 reported High Court judgments and 43 reported judgments in the Supreme Court of Appeal during her judicial career. These judgments span wide ranging and intricate legal issues and demonstrate her comprehensive knowledge of the law. She is held in high esteem by the legal fraternity and has a reputation for integrity and independence along with a sensitivity to the implications of gender-based violence and socio-economic inequalities in South African society. 

The advocates who have appeared before her have commended her “fine grasp of a broad spectrum of the law”. According to the General Council of the Bar, Justice Maya has demonstrated a “consistent understanding of the need to balance the enforcement of constitutional rights against the need for government to be able to perform its functions efficiently”. 

Justice Maya has been involved in many community-based organisation, including the Transkei Women’s Zenzele Association and the Women’s Economic Advancement Group (Pty) Ltd. In so doing, she makes a valuable and substantial contribution to the promotion of women’s rights. 

Throughout her career, she has demonstrated a clear commitment to transformation and to the promotion of gender equality – taking active steps to promote gender transformation in the judiciary and in the broader legal profession. Her extra-curricular activities and particularly her community activism, reflect a deep commitment to the values of the Constitution. Through her appointment as President of the Supreme Court of Appeal, she has become a symbol of gender transformation and is an important role-player in the promotion of cultural and gender rights.

Mandisa Maya is married to Dabulamanzi Mlokoti and has three children.

For her significant contribution to the development of law in South Africa, the promotion of constitutional democracy and the protection of human rights, it is an honour for Nelson Mandela University to confer the degree of Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) on Justice Mandisa Maya.