Justice Zakeria Mohammed Yacoob was born on 3 March 1948 and became blind at 16 months as a result of meningitis. He married in 1970, has two adult children (a daughter and a son) and has lived in Durban almost all his life.
Yacoob attended Durban's Arthur Blaxall School for the Blind from 1956 to 1966. From 1967 to 1969 he studied for a BA at the University College, Durban (now the University of Durban-Westville), majoring in English and private law.
From 1970 to 1972 he completed an LLB at UDW.
He was involved with many clubs and societies at university and helped to organise activities and negotiations that culminated in the first elected students' representative council.
Yacoob served his pupillage in Durban in 1973. The Natal Provincial Division of the Supreme Court admitted him as an advocate on 12 March 1973; he practised as a junior counsel from July 1973 to May 1991.
During this time he:
- represented and advised many people prosecuted for contravening security laws, emergency measures and other oppressive legislation;
- represented victims of unfair evictions and people who were required to pay unfair tariffs;
- represented the "Durban Six" in negotiations with the British government when they occupied the British Consulate in Durban in 1984 in protest against apartheid and unjust laws;
- was part of a team that from 1985 until 1988 defended officials and members of the United Democratic Front and its affiliates in the Delmas Treason Trial; and
- represented the accused in the "Vula" trial, which involved high-ranking members of the African National Congress, in 1990 and 1991.
- In this time he also ran a significant and diverse commercial and general legal practice. Yacoob served as a member of the Society of Advocates of Natal for several years and took silk in May 1991.
He joined the Constitutional Court of South Africa in February 1998.
Yacoob was the chairperson of the Durban Committee of Ten in 1980. Its aim was to alleviate the plight of pupils, ensure the release of those in detention and facilitate talks between pupils, students, parents and educational authorities.
He was a member of the executive of the Natal Indian Congress from 1981 to 1991 - in which capacity he organised and took part in protests, produced and distributed publicity material, and organised and addressed many anti-apartheid mass meetings.
Yacoob, as a member of the executive of the Durban Housing Action Committee from 1982 to 1985, was involved in action aimed at ensuring that the Durban City Council managed its housing schemes fairly.
As a member of the executive of the Durban Detainees' Support Committee from 1981 to 1985, Yacoob was involved in:
- promoting community support for detainees;
- calling for the release of detainees;
- helping to ameliorate the conditions under which detainees were held; and
- helping to organise workshops, meetings and conferences to expose the evils of detention without trial.
Yacoob was also a member of a committee that rallied against the South African Indian Council. He belonged to the Democratic Lawyers Association from 1979 to 1984, was a member of the UDF's Natal executive, was heavily involved in a campaign against the tricameral parliament from 1983 to 1985 and was a member of the underground structures of the ANC.
Yacoob has been heavily involved in the activities of the Natal Indian Blind and Deaf Society, and the South African National Council for the Blind. He has served on many school committees, parent-teacher bodies, ratepayers' associations and civic organisations.
He was the chairperson of the South African National Council for the Blind and was a member of its national management committee and its national executive committee from 2001 to 2009.
He was a member of the council of the University of Durban-Westville from 1989 to 1993 and from 1995 to1997. He was the chancellor of the university from May 2001 until 31 December 2003.
Yacoob has attended dozens of international conferences and workshops on topics as varied as blindness, children and democracy.
Yacoob was a member of the Technical Committee on Fundamental Rights in the negotiating process.
He served on the Independent Electoral Commission from December 1993 to June 1994 and was a member of the Panel of Independent Experts of the Constitutional Assembly.
Yacoob has also advised local-government bodies, the National Land Committee and the Department of Finance.
Service on the Constitutional Court
- Justice 1998 - 2013
Judge Yacoob presentation at Maryland University Law School 16 October 2012
Judge Yacoob presentation in Pakistan:The Role of the Judiciary in Good Governance
Presentation by the South African Delegation at the 50th Anniversary of the Turkish Constitutional Court
A Dynamic Constitution
Keynote Address delivered at the University of Fort Hare 7 May 2010
Acceptance of LLD Honoris Causa Fort Hare 7 May 2010
Role of Civil Society 2011
9TH Victoria and Griffiths Mxenge Memorial lecture
The entrenchment and enforcement of socio-economic rights