Advocate Nana Makhubele SC was the first black female chairperson of the Pretoria Bar. Before entering the legal profession Makhubele had already experienced a variety of jobs. These included leaving school at 12-years-old to work as a child-minder and maid for a local school principal and later in life, as a social worker from 1984-1988.
Currently the chairperson of the Water Tribunal, Makhubele also served as the chairperson of the Income Tax Board for hearing Appeals in 2013. She joined the Bar in 1999 after working as a public prosecutor in Giyani and as Assistant Master of the High Court in Pretoria. Since 2013 she has acted for 58 weeks in the Gauteng High Court.
October 2017 Interview:
October 2017 – Interview synopsis
Advocate Nana Makhubele SC was brilliant at school. She skipped certain grades and, in one year, completed three of them simultaneously. Such academic excellence, however, was only rewarded with a stint as a child labourer.
Makhubele told the commission that, because of her meteoric rise through primary school she was set to enter secondary school at the same time as her elder brother. Her parents, however, were unable to pay for both children to attend high school and so Makhubele worked for a year for a local school principal who had recently had a baby.
“I effectively worked as a maid,” Makhubele said, “at first I was angry… but it was part of my formative foundation.”
Gauteng Judge President Dunstan Mlambo asked Makhubele to describe to the JSC an incidence of racism she had experienced while appearing before a white male judge in the high court in Gauteng. She said she had tried to explain to the judge why proceedings had been delayed but “the way he spoke to me, I cried in court”.
Makhubele said the judge had spoken to her “in a dismissive manner, as if he was speaking to some primary school kids”. The judge had been one of Makhubele’s colleagues during her acting stints and “that is what hurt me the most”, she said.
She mentioned another instance of a white male judge who “preferred to call white junior silks and ignore senior black silks” during roll call. This led to black advocates being “forced to bring in senior white colleagues… because when he or she stands up, the judge listens”.
Makhubele was one of the most qualified candidates in this round. She also performed very well in her interview and was duly recommended for appointment by the JSC.