Personal details

The late Ismail Mahomed was born in Pretoria on 5 July 1931 and died on 17 June 2000. He was married.


Judge Mahomed matriculated at Pretoria Indian Boys' High School in 1950. He completed a BA degree at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1953 and a BA honours with distinction in political science in 1954. He completed his LLB in 1957.

Professional history

Judge Mahomed was admitted to the Johannesburg Bar, because the Bar in Pretoria, where he lived, was reserved for whites.

During the early sixties he was admitted as an advocate in Lesotho, Botswana, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. In 1984 he was admitted to the English Bar.

He built an extensive litigation practice and in 1974 he became the first black person in the country's history to take silk.

Judge Mahomed's practice was concentrated on civil rights. He appeared in numerous trials on behalf of some of the leading figures in the anti-apartheid movement and played a leading role in challenges to the government's administrative and executive decrees during his 35-year career as an advocate.

In 1979 he was appointed a judge of the Appeal Court in Swaziland and in 1982 he was made a judge of appeal in Lesotho. He later became the Chief Justice of Namibia and the president of the Lesotho Court of Appeal. In this capacity he gave some of these courts' leading constitutional and administrative law judgments.

He also co-chaired the Conference for a Democratic South Africa, better known as Codesa.

In 1991, after the unbanning of the ANC, he became the first black person in South African history to be made a permanent judge of the Supreme Court of South Africa.

Judge Mahomed was appointed to the Constitutional Court in 1994. In 1998 he was made Chief Justice, a position he held until his death in 2000.

Other activities

Judge Mahomed published numerous articles in law journals and lectured on human rights jurisprudence at universities abroad.

He was made an honorary professor of law at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1990. He received honorary doctorates in law from the University of Delhi and the University of Pennsylvania.

He was awarded the Indicator Human Rights award in 1990 and also received the special award of the Black Lawyers' Association for his outstanding contribution to the development of human rights in South Africa.

Service on the Constitutional Court

  • Justice 1994 - 1998 Appointed by President Nelson Mandela
  • Elevated By President Nelson Mandela to Chief Justice 1998 - 2000
  • Died 17 June 2000