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Personal details

Belinda van Heerden currently lives in the Western Cape, with her husband.

Education

Van Heerden grew up in the Western Cape, where she received her primary and secondary education. She studied at Stellenbosch University from 1977 to 1981 graduating with a BA in 1979 and an LLB in 1981, both magna cum laude. She was awarded the Chancellor’s Medal at the end of her final LLB year. Thereafter, she went to Oxford University as a South Africa-at-Large Rhodes Scholar, graduating with a BA (Hons) Jurisprudence in July 1984.

Professional history

Van Heerden returned to South Africa (after a stint at a law firm in Indiana, USA) in December 1984 and took up the position as a senior lecturer in private law at Stellenbosch University, where she remained until December 1985.

From January 1986 to December 1989, she held the post of senior lecturer in private law at the University of Cape Town. After doing articles of clerkship with a Cape Town law firm, she practiced as a director of the firm from 1992 to 1994. In January 1995, she once again joined the academic staff of the University of Cape Town, being promoted to Associate Professor in January 1996 and to full Professor in 1999. She spent one term as an Acting Judge at the Cape High Court (January to April 1999) and was appointed to a permanent seat on the Bench from January 2000. After serving as an Acting Judge of Appeal at the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein from I June 2003, she was appointed permanently to that Court with effect from 1 August 2004. In 2006 she was appointed as an Acting Judge to the Constitutional Court for two terms, retaining her permanent position on the Supreme Court of Appeal bench.

Other activities

One of Van Heerden’s main spheres of interest and expertise is child and family law (especially children’s rights and gender equality issues). She has co-authored three books on child and family law and has contributed a substantial number of articles to legal journals in this area, several of which (on child law reform and related issues) were co-researched and co-authored with Professor Julia Sloth-Nielsen of the University of the Western Cape. She also has a special interest in the law of contract and has lectured and published in this sphere.

Van Heerden has presented papers at and/or actively participated in a large number of conferences, workshops and seminars (both national and international), many of which have dealt with issues involving children - such as children’s rights and child welfare; international child abduction; intercountry and transcultural adoption; children’s participation; children and the courts; children’s rights to health; legislating for child protection; juvenile justice and diversion, and various other aspects of child law and the reform thereof. From 1 June 1997 until January 1999, she served as the Project Leader of the South African Law Commission Project Committee on the Review of the Child Care Act, 1983. From January 1999 until her appointment to the judiciary, she continued to participate fully as a member of the Project Committee, engaging in research, drafting and extensive consultation activities. She remains involved in various community-based and non-governmental initiatives promoting the care, protection and empowerment of children.

Since her appointment to the judiciary, Van Heerden has delivered many judgments in a wide variety of legal areas, many of which have been reported in the law reports. Several judgments which she has delivered have ultimately been considered by the Constitutional Court, which Court upheld the orders made by Judge van Heerden in the Cape High Court.