Enter your keyword

Ms Narini Nirmala Hiralall

Capacity: Attorney
First admitted as attorney: 1987
Gender: Female
Ethnicity: Indian
Date of Birth: November 1961
Qualifications: BA, LLB (UKZN)

Key judgments:

  • Zardad Properties CC v Chrisoula Mathas N.O. (3091/17P) ZAKZPHC
  • S v Noguda (CCD33/20) ZAKZDHC (29 March 2021)
  • S v Bafana Makhonza (CC49/2020) ZAKZPHC (20 September 2021)
  • Makhoba v CCMA (1280/17) ZALCD (13 September 2021)
  • Pako v State (AR196/19) ZAKZDHC (4 August 2021)

Candidate Bio:

Durban attorney Narini Hiralall has had an illustrious career as a lawyer.

Her career started in the turbulent ‘80s when South Africa was under continuous states of emergency and was on the brink of civil war. In 1985 she worked as a candidate attorney at the law firm Meer, Motala and Co, which could easily be described as ‘struggle lawyers’ (those lawyers who took on cases on behalf of anti-apartheid activists and trade unions for very little to no pay). She was admitted as an attorney in 1987 and held a short stint an insurance law firm before later joining well-known anti-apartheid lawyer (and later SA Human Rights Commissioner) Priscilla Jana as a partner at her firm. Hirallal branched off to start her own firm in 1989 and ran it until 1996. By then was already serving as an ad-hoc additional member of the Industrial Court, and later as a part-time commissioner at the CCMA (the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration).

Hirallal would later spend the rest of her career in the labour environment, fulfilling various roles as a mediator, consultant, arbitrator and adjudicator at various bargaining councils and the CCMA itself. In 2015, she went back to legal practice and joined a law firm that already bore her name – the firm was owned by her two children.

Her years of experience of adjudication stood Hirallal in good stead when in 2017 she started acting as a judge of the High Court in Pietermaritzburg but also in Durban in later years. In 2021 she also held an acting stint in the Labour Court.

Although she is now a specialist in labour law, Hirallal started her career in criminal law. This formative experience no doubt assisted her when she later had to preside over complex criminal cases in the High Court.

One of which is the gruesome murder of Durban LGBTIQ+ activist and musician Lindokuhle Cele.

Cele was murdered in broad daylight in front of her friends and family at a local shisanyama in uMlazi, Durban. The crime sent shockwaves through Durban and was described as a hate crime. The murderer, Mr Mvuyisi Noguda, had accused (without a shred of evidence) Cele of drugging and sexually assaulting him at a New Years’ Eve party held a month prior to the murder. Cele, Noguda, and several others were at a nearby house and, after a night of merriment, retired to various bedrooms in the house. In the subsequent days, Noguda suspected that he had been sexually assaulted as he had no recollection of that night and the nights subsequent. One of his friends told Noguda that Cele was the perpetrator as, “he was the only gay person around”.  Noguda stalked Cele for several weeks before on one fateful afternoon he stabbed him multiple times in the chest, neck, abdomen, and face, leaving the knife lodged in Cele’s eye socket before he fled the scene.

Noguda was arrested and stood trial before Hirallal. He submitted a guilty plea that was thin on the details of what happened and would’ve made it difficult to convict him for murder. The prosecutor therefore rejected the guilty plea and called several witnesses to testify.

In a carefully written judgment Hirallal analysed all the evidence and found Noguda guilty of killing Cele in a shockingly violent crime fuelled by hate. In a subsequent sentencing judgment, Hirallal described Noguda as a ‘monster’ and detailed the devastating impact that the murder had on Cele’s family (including that Cele’s grandmother was now permanently on medication, his uncle resigned from work due to the stress, and the family had to incur huge debts for the burial).

In the end, Hirallal found that Noguda had singled out Cele and killed him “solely because of his sexual orientation”. She sentenced Noguda to 25 years direct imprisonment.

The case was celebrated by LGBTIQ+ as it was the first hate crime to be tried as such and was symbolically important in their quest for specialised hate crimes legislation.

At 61, she is on the rather advanced age of people coming into the judiciary, and this might be an issue for the JSC. But will they overlook this and appoint someone who seems to have the skill, work ethic and passion for the extremely difficult job of a judge? Time will tell.

April 2022 Interview