Judge Khayelihle Kenneth Mthiyane was born in Ndwedwe, KwaZulu Natal on 13 September 1944. He went on to do a B. Iuris degree (Unisa) in 1972, LL.B (Natal) in 1984 and LL.M (Natal) in 1994. He previously worked as Judge of the Natal Provincial Division. Judge KK Mthiyane was married, with four adult daughters. He spent his spare time reading, going to gym and playing golf.
Mthiyane practiced in Durban as an attorney for nine years and for 13 years as an advocate before being appointed to the bench in October of 1997. His practice involved mainly public interest and political cases, as well as general commercial, civil and criminal cases.
Leading up to the first democratic elections in South Africa in 1994 Mthiyane participated actively in rendering legal assistance and providing voter education to the, until then, voterless and disadvantaged masses. As advocate he chaired two Commissions of Enquiry during 1995 which investigated racism at the University of Zululand and the then University of Durban Westville. Furthermore he sat on what came to be known as the Mthiyane Commission which investigated corruption and racism in not less than 22 provincial hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal, with a view to establishing clean governance. The Commission was assisted by a panel of advocates. The report and the recommendations of the Commission resulted in an abatement of the chaos that had threatened to destabilise health service delivery in the province and a number of dismissals and prosecutions followed.
Introducing Mthiyane at the Mxenge annual lecture at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, UKZN Alumnus and retired judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, the Honourable Mr Justice Zakeria (Zak) Yacoob, told of how Mthiyane had worked alongside the Mxenge’s in contributing to South Africa’s legal history:
“What stands out for me about K.K. (Mthiyane) is his humanity and willingness to sacrifice his life for his country. He worked together with Griffiths for many years and they were prepared to die for democracy. Griffiths and Victoria saw it as their duty to ensure that our people had unimpeded access to the court. They lived for justice and freedom and devoted all their lives to achieving a better life for the people they served. To them justice and freedom were inseparable. Such was the contribution made by the Mxenge’s in empowering people. We are richer for it and are basking in the glory of the legacy they left for us.”
At the lecture Mthiyane encouraged Law graduates to use the knowledge they acquired from their law degree as a tool to fight for justice and to bring about social change in their communities.
Never one to rest on his laurels, Judge Khayelihle Kenneth Mthiyane recently took up the position of Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry into the remuneration of teachers and other civil servants. Judge Mthiyane retired from his position as Deputy President of the Supreme Court of Appeal, one of the top four senior positions of the judiciary. In addition to looking at the issue of pay the Commission is also mandated to investigate matters relating to the recruitment, appointment and promotion policies and practices in the public service.
This position is another feather in the cap of Judge Mthiyane, whose career has seen him fighting for the rights of South Africa’s disempowered for the past four decades. Mthiyane passed away in February 2021 from Covid-19 related complications.