Ismail Mahomed

Ismail Mahomed SCOB SC (5 July 1931 – 17 June 2000) was a South African lawyer who served as the Chief Justice of South Africa and the Supreme Court of Namibia,[1] and co-authored the constitution of Namibia.[1]

Ismail Mahomed
Chief Justice of South Africa
In office
Preceded byMichael Corbett
Succeeded byArthur Chaskalson
Personal details
Born(1931-07-05)5 July 1931
Pretoria, South Africa
Died17 June 2000(2000-06-17) (aged 68)

Early life

Mahomed was born in Pretoria; his parents were Indian immigrant merchants.[1] He graduated from Pretoria Indian Boys' High School in 1950.[2] He received his BA from University of the Witwatersrand in 1953 and the following year received his BA (Hons) with distinction in political science. He finished his Bachelor of Laws in 1957.[3]


Mahomed was refused admission to the Pretoria Bar Association, as it was reserved for white lawyers, but was able to join the Johannesburg Bar Association.[3] However, because of the Group Areas Act, he was banned from getting an office of his own, and was forced to practice out of his colleagues' offices while they were away.[1] In the 1960s he was extensively briefed to appear in matters in Botswana. Lesotho, Swaziland and Rhodesia, being briefed mostly in matters related to recovery of monies and debts, summary suits, and suits for specific performance and contractual damages in real estate deals.[3] In 1974 he became the first non-white in South African history to take silk.[3] In 1979 he was appointed to the appeal court of Swaziland and in 1982 was made an Appeal Judge in Lesotho, where he would later become president of the Appeals court.[3] He was made an English Barrister in 1984.[3] In 1991 he became the chair of the Convention for a Democratic South Africa[2][3] and the country's first non-white judge of the Supreme Court of South Africa.[2] He was later appointed to the Appeal Court.[2] He was made a judge of the Constitutional Court in 1995.[2] In 1996 he was made the Chief Justice of South Africa by President Nelson Mandela.[4]


Mahomed died of pancreatic cancer in Johannesburg on 17 June 2000, shortly after leaving the bench.[1] Sam Nujoma, the Namibian President at that time, spoke at his funeral.

Honours and awards

At the Supreme Court of Namibia there is a statue in his honour.[5] He was posthumously awarded the Order of the Baobab (Gold) in 2002.[6]


  1. CAUVIN, HENRI E (19 June 2000). "Ismail Mahomed, 68; Led Post-Apartheid Court". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 August 2008.
  2. "Justice Ismail Mahomed". Archived from the original on 26 March 2006. Retrieved 31 August 2008.
  3. "Justice Ismail Mahomed". Archived from the original on 21 November 2008. Retrieved 31 August 2008.
  4. "Mandela appoints Ismail Mahomed Chief Justice". bnet. 1996. Retrieved 31 August 2008.
  5. Mashuna, Timoteus (5 October 2012). "Ismail Mahomed: 'The Leading Jurist' (1931–2000)". New Era.
  6. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 24 December 2012. Retrieved 12 November 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
Legal offices
Preceded by
Michael Corbett
Chief Justice of South Africa
Succeeded by
Arthur Chaskalson
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