Judge President Bernard Makgabo Ngoepe
The Honourable Judge President Bernard Makgabo Ngoepe is a man who, among other things, has devoted his professional life to the law in its many facets and to justice and equality for all.
- Bachelor of Law (B.luris) degree at the University of Limpopo in 1972
- Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree at Unisa in 1977
Occupation and positions held
- Chancellor, University of South Africa
- South Africa’s Tax Ombud
- Chairperson of the Appeals Board of the Council for Medical Schemes
- Chairperson of the Appeals Panel of the South African Press Council
- Chairperson of the Final Appeals Committee of the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa
- Judge President of the North and South Gauteng High Courts: from 1 January 1999 to 31 October 2012
- Judge, North and South Gauteng High Courts, 1995-2012
- Judge of the African Union’s African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights 2006-2014; Vice-President, mid 2013 - mid 2014
- Chairperson of the Court of Military Appeals, 1996-2012
- Chairperson of the Magistrates Commission, 1998-2010
- Member of the Judicial Service Commission, 1999-2012
February to May 1973: Public prosecutor
June 1973 to May 1976: Trainee attorney; admitted as Attorney of the Supreme Court of South Africa on 16 June 1976.
June 1976 to 1993: Practised as an attorney.
1993 to 1995: Admitted and started practising (1993) as an Advocate of the Supreme Court of South Africa (appointed Senior Counsel 1994) till 31 January 1995 when appointed a Judge.
Serving in quasi-judicial bodies
- Appointed Judge of the High Court 1 February 1995, until 31 October 2012 when optional retirement was taken
- Appointed Judge President of the North and South Gauteng High Courts of South Africa: 1 January 1999 to 31 October 2012 when optional retirement was taken
- Served as Acting Judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa for a term in 1995.
- Acted as Judge of the Supreme Court of Appeal for two terms in 1998.
1996-1998: Co-chair of the Amnesty Committee of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
- Appointed as one of the 11 Judges of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, by the Assembly of Heads of States of the African Union in July 2006; served two terms till September 2014; also as Vice-President of the Court
- Was a committee member of the Commission of Inquiry Regarding the Prevention of Public Violence and Intimidation established in terms of Act 139 of 1991, specifically inquiring into political violence and killings.
- Chaired the Commission of Inquiry into a soccer stadium stampede, Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg, 2001, in which 42 fans died; made i.a recommendations on preventive measures against similar incidents. Report became a blueprint for subsequent legislation to regulate such events.
- Chaired Commission of Inquiry into certain affairs of the University of the North (now Limpopo).
International activities of a judicial nature
- Judge of the African Union’s African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
- Served as ad hoc and acting Judge in Namibia.
- Workshop and discussant with Judges of the International Court of Justice (2007): The Hague.
- Workshop and discussant with Judges of the International Criminal Court: The Hague, 2007 and 2011.
- Workshop and discussant with some Judges of the European Court: Strasbourg, 2007.
- Workshop and discussant with Judges of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, San Jose, Costa Rica: 2007.
- Joint workshop and discussant with representative Judges of the above international courts under the auspices of the Brandeis University Institute of International Judges: New Hampshire, USA, 2007.
- Joint workshop with representative Judges of the Inter-American Court on Human Rights, Berlin, Germany, 2009.
- Workshop and discussant: Association of Commonwealth Judges and Magistrates: Kenya, UK and South Africa.
- As Judge President in Pretoria, received, integrated and exchanged views with judicial delegations from, i.a Rwanda, Malawi, Kenya, United States of America, China, South Sudan, Namibia and Belgium.
International activities of a non-judicial nature
- Participated in a nuclear disarmament workshop, France, Lutheran World Federation: 1982.
- World Council of Churches, Switzerland, circa 1988 on Human Rights Strategies.
- International Association of Refugee Law Judges: many workshops in New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden and Ireland (focusing on the protection of human rights of refugees) over years.
- Member of the Executive Committee of the International Association of Refugee Law Judges.
- From 2010 occasional participant in annual research workshops on refugee law: Refugee Law Research Centre, York University, Toronto, Canada.
- United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Geneva, 2013.
Honours and memberships
- Doctor of Laws degree (honours causa), by the University of Limpopo, in recognition of inter alia, contribution to the promotion of human rights: 1997.
- Another Doctor of Laws degree (honoris causa) by the University of South Africa for, inter alia, contribution in the field of human rights: 2004.
- A third Doctor of Laws degree (honoris causa) by the Venda University for Science and Technology in recognition of, inter alia, contribution towards the protection and promotion of human rights: 2005.
- Appointed Honorary Professor of Law, University of Limpopo (North).
- By the Black Lawyers Association Legal Education Centre (Johannesburg): “In recognition of your contribution to the development of Human Rights”: 1995.
- The Duma Nokwe Award by the National Institute for Public Interest Law and Research, Pretoria, for outstanding contribution in shaping and promoting Human Rights Culture in South Africa, 1998.
- Nong-e-Kgolo Governance: 1999: In recognition of courage and determination to succeed against a disadvantaged background.
- Presented with an Address by the Society of Advocates, Witwatersrand Local Division, Johannesburg, 1999, citation: “As a mark of our esteem and of our confidence in your leadership of the Judiciary and of the Legal Profession”.
- By the School of Law, University of the North, 2000, with the citation: “For his distinguished contribution to the Legal Development of South Africa.”
- Presentation by the Law Society of the Northern Provinces for contribution towards transforming the Judiciary, 2014
- 2003: Appointed honorary captain of the South African Navy.
- 2004: Recipient of the Limpopo Morula Award (by the industrial sector).
- University of Pretoria Laureate Award 2007.
- Honoured in July 2011 by the University of South Africa by launching and naming a scholarship: “The Judge President Bernard Makgabo Ngoepe Scholarship”, for post-graduate studies.
- Honour by the Agang Local Municipality, Limpopo, for exemplary achievement.
- Tshwane Outstanding Award: For “Outstanding service rendered with integrity for community, city and country.” (Jointly by City of Tshwane Metro, Sunday Sun and The Christ Centered Church).
- By the African Court: In recognition of “selfless and remarkable contribution to the protection of human and peoples’ rights on the African Continent as a Judge.” (2014).
To many, Bernard Makgabo Ngoepe's contributions thus far in his life would be regarded as not only considerable, but also as sufficient. But his involvement in society extends even further to encompass institutions of learning at all levels. He has, among others, lectured at the University of the North and is a former and present member of various governing bodies at primary and secondary school level.