The Democratic Governance and Rights Unit has a staff compliment of 11. Their roles are spread over the various projects of the DGRU namely, the Judicial Governance Programme, the Free Access to Law Programme and the Judicial Support Programme.
Vanja is the Director of the DGRU and has a Masters Degree in Justice and Transformation from UCT.
She has worked in various NGOs in the Western Cape mainly in the democracy and human rights sector. She has also worked as an independent researcher in the criminal justice sector.
Chris Oxtoby is a senior researcher at the DGRU. His main area of research is on judicial governance and in particular the appointment of judges. He has been monitoring the work of the South African Judicial Service commission since 2009.
He holds a BSocSc and LLB (cum laude) from the University of Cape Town, and an LLM from New York University. He is an admitted attorney of the High Court of South Africa (non-practising roll), and previously worked at a leading Cape Town law firm, and interned at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and the International Criminal Court.
Co-ordinator of Judges Matter campaign
Alison Tilley is an attorney and the co-ordinator of the Judges Matter campaign. This monitors the JSC appointments process of judges and aims to improve civil society scrutiny of judicial appointments.
She has litigated on access to information and whistle-blowing issues in a number of High Court matters, the Labour Court, and the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court of Appeal.
Her publications include "The Right to Know, The Right to Live", edited by Richard Calland and herself, and she contributes to the Daily Maverick.
Research and Advocacy Officer
Mbekezeli is a Research and Advocacy Officer of the Judges Matter Campaign at DGRU. Judges Matter aims to improve civil society scrutiny of the South African Judiciary through monitoring the appointment, governance and discipline of judges and magistrates.
Mbekezeli has litigated on issues relating to the right to education, the right to housing, and the right to protest for activists. He has been involved in cases that have come before courts at all levels of the court system, from the Magistrates Courts, up to and including the Constitutional Court. He has also made submissions at international bodies, including UN treaty bodies. He was recently selected as the Global Practitioner-in-Residence at Stanford Law School for the Spring Quarter 2019.
He holds an LLB from Wits University and is currently reading for an LLM at the University of Cape Town.
Research and Advocacy Officer
Zikhona Ndlebe is a Research and Advocacy Officer of the Judges Matter Organisation situated at the DGRU. Judges Matter monitors the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) appointments process of judges and aims to improve civil society scrutiny of judicial appointments.
Zikhona Ndlebe holds an LLB degree from the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and is currently studying towards an LLM specialising in Labour Law at the University of Cape Town (UCT). She is an admitted attorney of the High Court of South Africa with a High Court Right of Appearance. Subsequent to being admitted as an attorney she practiced as an attorney at one of the prestigious law firms in Cape Town and specialised in Labour and Employment Law. She has represented clients at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and at the various Bargaining Councils. She has appeared at the Labour Court and has been involved in court cases up to the Labour Appeal Court. Zikhona Ndlebe brings to the Judges Matter Organisation her Labour Law expertise and experience in legal practice.
Editor in Chief for JIFA newsletter
Carmel Rickard is the Editor in Chief of the newsletter of the Judicial Institute for Africa at UCT.
Since she began working as a journalist in 1981, Carmel Rickard has specialised in writing about legal affairs. She has won widespread recognition (local and international) as well as a number of awards for her work, and in 1992/3 was awarded a Nieman Fellowship to Harvard.
Before that landmark experience, she had effectively operated a one-person news service on legal and political events in South Africa, reporting for the Mail and Guardian and the Natal Witness (as Bureau Chief and legal columnist for both), as well as Reuters, the BBC’s Africa Service (Network Africa and Focus on Africa), Capital Radio and others.
On her return from Harvard she became legal editor of the Sunday Times (South Africa’s biggest newspaper), a position she held until 2002 when she left the paper to write a syndicated column on legal matters for the Independent Group. In 1998 she completed an LLM in Constitutional Law (cum laude).
She now writes a weekly column on legal issues for the Financial Mail, and a second weekly column, “A Matter of Justice” for Legalbriefs, a daily online legal newspaper. The latter column is supported by the International Bar Association, and focuses on judicial decisions and legal developments across the African continent.
She is also editor-in-chief of publications for the Judicial Institute for Africa (Jifa), writing newsletters for circulation to African judges on new judicial decisions from around the continent. This is intended to keep them up to date with judicial thinking and developments elsewhere in Africa, particularly given the shortage of resources like law reports.
She has a special interest in issues of justice and human rights; judicial independence and its significance in Africa as well as systems of judicial appointment (in 2003 she was invited to give a paper reflecting on the SA post-apartheid experience of judicial appointment at a conference in Cambridge, UK, on judicial reform).
She is the author of several books including “Thank you, Judge Mostert”, a biography of the life and times of the judge who blew the whistle on a major incident of apartheid-era government corruption.
Carmel lives in the Free State, close to the border with Lesotho, and has written extensively about the corruption trials in Lesotho over the Katse Dam as well as the continuing instability on that country’s court of appeal.
Content and policy development for AfricanLII
I work on content and policy development at the African Legal Information Institute. In the area of legal informatics and content, I am most interested in the development of a standardised approach to legal content collection and publication as well as analysis of legal document types in preparation for technical standardisation. In the latter sphere, I was involved in the development of the AkomaNtoso judgment standard and am now actively engaged in the localization of the AkomaNtoso schema to jurisdictions of AfricanLII interest.
Promotion of free access to law and sustained efforts of entrenching access policy is an integral part of AfricanLII work. My particular interests here lie in the study and development of copyright and privacy policies as means of removing barriers to widespread and unobstructed access to African law, as a subset of the broader issue of access to legal knowledge in Africa.
My research has also included studies on the sustainability of free access to law projects in Southern and East Africa (as part of a global research team) which includes a component on the impact of such projects.
I am a Section Editor of the Journal of Open Access to Law.
I taught the undergraduate course in Legal Information Literacy and the Cyberlaw LLM at the Law School of the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa from 2005 to 2010.
I graduated in law from Plovdiv University “Paisiy Hilendarski”, Bulgaria (2001, Magister Iuris) and from Stockholm University, Sweden (2003, LLM in Law and Information Technology).
I was previously the Head of Legal Informatics and Policy at SAFLII.
Neil Du Toit
AfricanLII Data Scientist
Neil holds a BSc Mathematics from the University of Cape Town and an LLB from Stellenbosch University. He worked briefly as a data strategist, advising corporates on enterprise data science solutions, before deciding to focus on his passion for legal technology.
Neil is AfricanLII's data scientist. He currently works on an Africa-wide caselaw citator service and on some top-secret machine learning and AI projects.
Finance and Research Administrator
DGRU Finance and Research Administrator. Coming from her previous position in EBE, Robyn has joined us at the beginning of March 2016. Robyn loves exercising, socializing and photography.
She acts as both a content editor and support staff for AfricanLII. Her role in the DGRU is as the logistical planner for all of the JIFA courses and other training workshops that are provided.
Matthias is a PhD student in the Department of Political Studies (UCT) and a researcher at the DGRU. His main area of research is judicial politics. He uses a variety of methods, including statistical analysis, surveys and qualitative fieldwork to answer questions around judicial power, independence, and legitimacy by comparing jurisdictions across southern and East Africa.
He holds a Masters Degree in Comparative Politics from UCT and works as a Data Support Officer for the Afrobarometer, a pan-African research institution that conducts public opinion surveys in more than 30 countries across the continent.
Dr Nyasha Karimakwenda is a feminist socio-legal researcher, educator, and consultant on gender and women's rights. She has worked and conducted research in the US, the Caribbean and Southern Africa. She is particularly passionate about empirical research that centers the voices of survivors of gender-based violence and highlights community activism. Nyasha also has experience in managing and implementing qualitative research projects, developing gender indicators for research reports, and establishing policy recommendations to advance gender equality.
Honorary Research Associate
Dr. Colin Darch is an Honorary Research Associate at the DGRU.
Colin Darch's main research interests are access to information (the citizen's right to information held by the state), and the political economy of intellectual property as a global system. Trained as a historian, he holds a PhD from the School of Economic and Social Analysis at the University of Bradford, and is a qualified librarian. He has worked, since the 1970s, in universities and research centres in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Brazil, and South Africa, and is fluent in Portuguese. His book Freedom of Information and the Developing World (co-authored with Peter G. Underwood) appeared in 2010. More recently, a collection of his essays and lectures in Portuguese, O Continente Demasiado Grande was published in Recife, Brazil.
Having worked as an attorney, a law lecturer, a director of a non-profit college for impoverished students, a facilitator of corporate leadership programs and an organizational development consultant, I am a multi-disciplinary thinker. I’m the founder and director of the Centre for Integrative Law, a consultancy for emergent thinking in the practice of law. From 2016 to 2018 the CIL’s main project was WOLELA, Women Leading in Law, a network supporting individual women lawyers both personally and professionally. I ran an annual conference called Finding New Ways for Women to Lead in Law 5 times, to extraordinary feedback. I choose to do work that makes my heart sing - and getting feedback like “Your conference is the best thing that has happened to me this year” definitely makes the crazy amount of work worth it.
What makes me come alive is seeing what might be possible for an individual, for an organization and for the world. Through consulting, facilitating, speaking, designing courses, coaching and writing I bring a multidisciplinary approach to changing systems. Although not practising, I am still a lawyer at heart, deeply committed to supporting the global Integrative Law Movement, a movement of thousands of legal professionals pioneering new methods of practising law, new ways of viewing the role of a lawyer and new ways to restore humanity to the legal system. I’m proud to have some of my thinking published in the American Bar Association book Lawyers as Changemakers, written by my friend and mentor J Kim Wright.
Currently, I direct a mentorship programme run by the DGRU (Democratic Governance and Rights Unit) at the University of Cape Town, in partnership with the SA Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges. There are 50 female law students - 30 from the University of the Western Cape and 20 from UCT. Each has a magistrate mentor, whom they observe in court for 40 hours. We don’t know when the court observation may be possible, but are exploring virtual mentorship options. In the meantime, I’ve designed an online leadership course (personal and professional development) for the students with a range of interviews, articles, videos and talks by inspirational lawyers. It’s immensely rewarding to be able to teach all the things I have always felt are missing from the law curriculum, and have this enthusiastically confirmed by the students. My dream is that these subjects which include knowing your values; the changing world of law; leadership development; personal management and self-care will soon be considered essential parts of training lawyers in South Africa, as they are in many universities in the UK, US and Australia.