The sad news of the passing on of Judge Khalipi Jake Moloi came to the attention of the Black Lawyers Association (BLA) as shock and left us devastated. BLA believes that Judge Moloi left us when he still had much to offer to the judiciary and to the legal profession. He remained a good example of excellence and perseverance. We observed this in the manner in which he applied himself throughout his legal career. After matriculation he attained a diploma Iuris and he started his legal career as a court interpreter. He grew within the system until he became a magistrate. He educated himself until he obtained two LLM Degrees. He persevered with determination such that after practising on his own account for many years, in 2009, he was elevated to the bench at the Free State Division of the High Court of South Africa.
Much has been written about the leadership roles and public service of this stalwart through statements released by the office of the Chief Justice and the Co-Chairs of the Law Society of South Africa, amongst others. The statements mainly covered the life of Judge Moloi as a jurist. Judge Moloi was a fearless Human Rights activist throughout his adult life. Free State was a no go area for Blacks and Indians as they were regarded as personae non grata by the apartheid government. Against all odds Judge Moloi opened his legal practice in the Free State and gave dignity to Africans as his was the first black law firm in the Free State. All black practitioners who subsequently opened law firms in the Free State were trained by Judge Moloi during their articles of clerkship. Amongst these we count Judge President Molemela, Judge Kubushi and Judge Mathebula. It is through the success of those that he trained that we can now measure appropriately the amount of good work that he did for his people.
After the declaration of the State of Emergency by the apartheid regime in 1985 Judge Moloi’s firmness as a human rights lawyer was observed when his firm represented all victims of brutalities including young children who were detained indefinitely under the emergency regulations and those charged under security legislation, in the then Orange Free State. Judge Moloi was a courageous lawyer who put the interest of his clients above all other considerations. His courage is more fully distinguished as he led a delegation of the civic and mass democratic movement to Pretoria to negotiate with Adrian Vlok, the then Minister of Police, for the release of school kids. (This delegation was arranged by Mr TV Matsepe, another BLA stalwart). This action had a potential of bringing heavy-handedness to himself and his immediate family by the apartheid security agencies but he chose to identify himself with school children and other victims of government brutality. Judge Moloi fought against the rule by law for the rule of law. He stood for equality before the law.
Judge Moloi was a visionary. He served two terms as President of BLA. The Law Society of South Africa was established under his BLA presidency. He played a pivotal role in transforming the Association of Law Societies (ALS) into the Law Society of South Africa LSSA and thereby paved way for the beginning of the transformation of the legal profession as a whole. He was the Co-Chairperson of LSSA for the 1999 / 2000 term of office. Judge Moloi, as the President of the BLA, relentlessly advocated for replacement of the Attorneys Act, 1979 by the new Act with the objective of changing governance and the manner of regulation of the profession. His efforts resulted in the promulgation of the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014 (LPA). He is therefore the champion of the LPA, who unfortunately did not witness the full implementation thereof.
During his BLA Presidency he crisscrossed South Africa visiting historically disadvantaged universities' law faculties organising law students to form BLA Student Chapter. This was a successful exercise given the fact that currently there is no university in South Africa without a BLA Student Chapter. Almost all of the current BLA leadership and Chairpersons of Provincial Branches cut their teeth in the various BLA Student Chapters. As a result of his vision and efforts BLA today boasts to be the mother body of the largest legal student chapter in the African continent.
Some of Judge Moloi's major contributions in the early days of our democracy were his participation in the healing of our country as a member of the Amnesty Committee of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as well as the drafting of Black Economic Empowerment Policy document as a member of the Black Economic Empowerment Commission chaired by Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, the current Deputy President of our country. He proved that given an opportunity, black legal practitioners can compete on the world stage, when he was contracted by the European Union in Brussels to assist in regulating and improving international trade relations. He was the first black Chief State Attorney from 1998 to 2000.
As a sign of true patriotism, in 2009 he reluctantly accepted the appointment to the bench at the age of 63, an age, when his white compatriots are contemplating retirement. This was another contribution on his side to change the South African jurisprudence to reflect its people in particular the majority within the four corners of our Constitution that empowers the judiciary to develop new law. Some of his seminal judgements in his short stint as a judge reflect this.
We are certain that if he was still a practicing attorney he would have led the BLA march, in July of 2017, to the Union Building when a memorandum on the plight of black legal practitioners was handed over to the Presidency. He expressed his support to the BLA march and lamented on the appalling conditions of black legal practitioners 23 years after democracy despite the major contribution of black legal practitioners in our struggle, some of whom also paid the ultimate price by their lives.
We pay homage to this brave leader and stalwart of BLA. This is the man who spent his entire life in pursuit of equality and justice for all. In his quest for realization of the dreams of a black child, a black lawyer in particular, he either individually or as a member of a collective, disregarded the boundaries of apartheid, perceived and / or real in order to achieve goals he set for himself. He found ways and solutions in many unmapped and unexplored terrains in the South African legal profession.
As we mourn his passing we find comfort and solace in the knowledge that his life was not in vain. It was life well lived and fulfilled by serving the weak. He leaves behind a great legacy for us to inherit and help take forward. He laid a foundation on which a stronger BLA of the future shall be built. His leadership defined BLA in its first 40 years of championing the legacy of black legal practitioners and he is the corner stone on which the foundation of the next 40 years of the BLA’s relevance and struggles shall be laid. Through his deeds he shall forever live in our hearts.
We extend our deep profound compassion and condolences to his close relatives, family and friends, his colleagues on the bench and the entire BLA membership.
“May his soul rest in peace”.