Maverick Citizen


Family ‘optimistic’ of recovery after Justice Mokgoro seriously injured in car accident

Family ‘optimistic’ of recovery after Justice Mokgoro seriously injured in car accident
Justice Yvonne Mokgoro. (Photo: Bernard Brand)

Former Justice of the Constitutional Court, Yvonne Mokgoro remains in hospital after suffering multiple injuries when the car in which she was travelling was hit by a truck between Warrenton and Kimberley in the Northern Cape three weeks ago. 

On 3 April 2023, former justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, Yvonne Mokgoro, was involved in a serious car accident. 

Mokgoro was travelling between Warrenton and Kimberley, near Windsorton in the Northern Cape when her car was hit by a truck. 

Since then Mokgoro has been at Kimberley’s Lenmed Royal Hospital and Heart Centre. Doctors have confirmed that Mokgoro suffered multiple injuries directly from the accident and have described her condition to her family as “critical but stable”. 

On Sunday her son Ithateng Mokgoro told Maverick Citizen “We remain hopeful that Mama will continue to fight and overcome the challenges she is facing. 

“We draw strength from her unwavering resilience and the love and support of those around us. We remain optimistic and believe that, with the help of her medical team and the power of faith, she will emerge victorious in this difficult journey.”

He added that “She is showing slight improvements, there is an upward projection in her condition, and she is getting better. She is showing improvement in her level of consciousness.

“I just spoke to the doctor, she is showing improvement in her ability to move voluntarily. Everything is slight right now but we welcome any improvement because it shows a deeper, underlying sign of recovery. The main doctor we are dealing with now is a neurosurgeon, the area of concern is the brain and how it’s responding to outside stimuli. It’s improving.” 

Mokgoro, who has been at her bedside since the accident, praised the quality of care she had received from doctors. The family is hoping that in the coming days Mokgoro, 73, can be moved to Johannesburg from Kimberley so she is closer to family and those who care for her. 

Tributes and best wishes 

Mokgoro has had an outstanding career in the legal field and civil society. She was the first black woman to serve on the Constitutional Court and has contributed significantly to developing the country’s legal system. 

Contacted for comment yesterday the Inspecting Judge of Prisons and former Constitutional Court justice, Edwin Cameron, said “Justice Mokgoro was a pivotal member of the first ‘Mandela’ Constitutional Court bench appointed in 1994 – a black woman from an academic background, who brought rich seams of humanity and insight into the Court’s deliberations and judgments. She resolutely fought for the underdog, the weak, the marginalised, and the impoverished. Her humane legacy is deeply embedded in our jurisprudence, as we await her recovery from terrible injuries in a motor collision. Our thoughts are intensely with her family and all who love her.”

In addition to her judicial work, Mokgoro has been active in various civil society organisations, demonstrating her commitment to promoting justice and equality. 

Responding on Sunday, former public protector Thuli Madonsela, who is now the Law Trust Chair in Social Justice and Law Professor at the University of Stellenbosch, said that the “shocking” news of Mokgoro’s accident came on the back of “anazing social media posts of photographs of her at a SAWLA event where she was one of the celebrants as women lawyers look back this year on 100 years of their admission into legal practice”.


Justice Yvonne Mokgoro at an event organised by the South African Women Lawyers Association over the weekend. (Photo: Facebook / SAWLA SC)

The news had left Madonsela gutted, and she hoped that Mokgoro would recover. “A quintessential human rights crusader, Yvonne has contributed ernomously to South Africa’s transformative constitutionalism and justice landscape. She is credited with having convinced the majority of her constitutional court colleagues to embrace Ubuntu as implicit in the value of human dignity in the death penalty abolishing case known as S v Makwanyane. In her personal interactions, she epitomises Ubuntu in the way she looks out for all particularly those that are marginalised.”

Tshepo Madlingozi, the Director of the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) at Wits University, recalled his first meeting with Justice Mokgoro in 2007 at a symposium at Kent University. 

“After her plenary input, she came to sit with me for the rest of the proceedings. We sat chatting in Setswana about home, laughing, and commenting about the various papers. The Justice’s poise, calm and calming energy, sharp wit and openness were both surprising and inspiring. I never met a judge like that before – commanding respect while making one feel fully seen and listened to. I could sit at her proverbial feet all day; more than a judge but a sage. 

“To be sure, one of Justice’s Mokgoro’s enduring contributions to SA constitutional jurisprudence and indeed to our then emergent national ethos was the (re-)centring of ubuntu as constitutional value, an interpretive device/lens, and a means and ends towards transforming our society. Justice Mokgoro made it clear that the living philosophy of ubuntu was not a spice to the Western dish of Western legalism; but that it was integral to the constitutionalism project itself. It is a pity we have relegated ubuntu to a spice.”

Madlingozi said that he had last met Justice Mokgoro in August 2019 when she gave the keynote address at a CALS and International Commission of Jurists symposium on Women and Socioeconomic rights. “Justice Mokgoro literally wept, talking about the feminisation of poverty and how society had failed women. This is Justice Mokgoro: ultimately an activist who embodies feminist ethics of care.”

Read in the Daily Maverick: Legislature must work to ‘take back our state’, urges Justice Yvonne Mokgoro as she is honoured in name of George Bizos 

Given this high regard Mokgoro has served on several selection committees and trusts, including the Mandela-Rhodes Trust and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. Her academic background and teaching experience at various universities, including the University of Bophuthatswana, the University of the Western Cape, University of Pretoria, and a few positions in the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Netherlands, demonstrate her dedication to advancing legal education and knowledge.

Her experience and expertise have also been recognised internationally, as evidenced by her appointment by the UN Secretary General as Chairperson of its five-member United Nations Internal Justice Council and in December 2021 of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Racial Justice Body. DM/MC


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