Personal details

Tholakele Hope Madala was born in Kokstad on 13 July 1937. He was married to Patricia Alice Ndileka Madala, a non-practising advocate of the High Court, with whom he had three children and two grandsons.

After matriculating at St John's College in Umtata in 1956, Justice Madala proceeded to Fort Hare University where he obtained a BA (Rhodes) degree and a UED (SA) diploma. He taught at the Lovedale Institute in Alice and in Swaziland before taking up law at the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg in 1972. He was instrumental in setting up the first legal aid clinic on the Pietermaritzburg campus to provide a service to the indigent.

Professional history
Until 1980 Justice Madala lectured at the University of Transkei, initially full-time but later part-time. Subsequently he practised as an attorney, chairing the Transkei Attorneys' Association, and was admitted as an advocate in 1982. In his legal practice Justice Madala handled many human rights cases and he and other lawyers interested in the protection of the rights of the underprivileged established the Umtata Law Clinic under the auspices of the Umtata and Districts Lawyers' Association.

From 1987 to 1990 he served as vice-chairperson of the Society of Advocates of Transkei and from 1991 to 1993 as chairperson, representing the society on the General Council of the Bar. Justice Madala took silk in 1993 and was elevated to the Bench in 1994, becoming the first black judge in the Eastern Cape and the fourth black judge in South Africa. In October of the same year he was appointed a founding judge of the Constitutional Court.

In 1995 the Legal Education Centre of the Black Lawyers Association (BLA) presented him with an award in recognition of his contribution in the area of human rights and in April 1999 his alma mater, the University of Natal, awarded him an honorary LLD.

Other activities

Justice Madala was a founder member and director of the Prisoners' Welfare Programmes, an association established in 1985 to provide legal, financial and educational assistance to political detainees, prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families.

For varying periods Justice Madala served on the council of the University of Transkei and on the board of that University's Law Faculty. In addition he served on the Transkeian Medical Council and was a founder member of the board of the Thembelitsha Centre for the Rehabilitation of Drug Dependents.

On his appointment to the Bench, Justice Madala stepped down as deputy chairperson of the Transkei National Building Society.

Over many years he participated in a range of seminars and conferences and delivered papers on constitutional and human rights issues in South Africa, Cyprus, France, Ireland, Malawi, Swaziland and the United States.

Justice Madala retired from the Constitutional Court in 2008 and until his death on 25 August 2010 remained a member of the BLA, serving as a trustee of its Legal Education Centre – a cause close to his heart. He was also the chancellor of the Anglican Diocese of St John and Deputy Chancellor of the Church of the Province of South Africa.

Service in the Constitutional Court

  • Justice 1994 - 2008

Judge Madala was directly appointed by the President of the Republic of South Africa under the interim Constitution and was therefore not interviewed by the Judicial Service Commission. This mode of appointment is no longer followed.

Obituaries and Tributes

  • Law Society of South Africa
  • Department of Justice and Constitutional Development
  • General Council of the Bar


  • News24 "Retired Constitutional court Judge Dies
  • News24 "Law Society remembers Madala"