Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo was born in 1953 in Durban, South Africa, and began his career on the bench as a judge in the Industrial Court in KwaZulu-Natal in 1993. His meteoric rise saw him becoming a Judge of the High Court cape of Good Hope Division, the Labour Appeal Court, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Amnesty Committee, and an Acting Judge President of the Labour Court and Labour Appeal Court.
He was appointed a Justice of the South African Constitutional Court in 1999 and later Chief Justice of that Court in 2009, until his retirement in 2011. Justice Ngcobo campaigned for judicial reforms since 2003, and during his period as Chief Justice he piloted many initiatives. These included the establishment of the Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ) as a national department to support the Chief Justice as Head of the Judiciary and of the Constitutional Court, paving the way for the establishment of the OCJ as an independent entity outside the Public Service.
At the Constitutional Court seminal judgements in which he wrote for the majority of the Court included Doctors for Life International, which defined South Africa’s constitutional democracy as both representative and participatory; and for a unanimous Court, Hoffmann v. South African Airways, which struck down workplace discrimination against people living with HIV, and Xolisile Zondi, a case that terminated the practice of depriving poor, rural black people ownership of their livestock on the basis of a 1947 Pound Ordinance.
Chief Justice has published numerous articles on the separation of powers, public confidence in the judiciary, and the delivery of justice in South Africa.