Attorney, Lawyers for Human Rights
Wayne Ncube started out studying business science and computer science as he had always pictured himself in a maths-oriented career, but switched study paths after he witnessed how the needs and concerns of marginalised communities are seldom met with adequate responses.
“Law was the obvious choice for me to pursue a career in public interest work, and to position myself to be able to make a positive impact in people’s lives,” he says. “South Africa already has a brilliant legal framework that affords individuals extensive rights and strong legal remedies that are tools to achieve individual and social justice.”
Ncube holds an LLB from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and an LLM in human rights advocacy and international law from the University of the Witwatersrand. He is also the founding member of the African Legal Centre, a non-profit voluntary organisation of students who seek to strengthen and develop the rule of law in Africa by commenting, documenting and reporting on human rights issues across the continent.
He now works for Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), and is an attorney in its Strategic Litigation Programme, having previously headed the organisation’s Detention Monitoring Unit, which assists people detained as a result of immigration issues.
In his years at LHR, Ncube has already brought many precedent-setting court cases, obtaining judgments that restricted the detention of stateless persons and declared that the failure to bring immigration detainees before a court within 48 hours is a violation of the Constitution.
His work was also instrumental in assisting over 300 people unlawfully detained during Operation Fiela and ensuring vulnerable refugees were not detained and deported to countries where they fear persecution.
Despite these significant victories, Ncube notes that the smaller cases he works on where relief is obtained for one person normally yield the greatest emotional satisfaction. He cites successful judgements in two key cases against the minister of home affairs, both relating to the rights of individual migrants facing detention, as examples of this work.
“One of the biggest challenges of my career is dealing with the personal toll the detention cases take,” he says. “A lot of the cases involve people who would face serious persecution, torture or death if they were deported to their home countries. A practical solution to this is to challenge the laws that facilitate the detention of people without allowing them access to legal representation and the courts.”
Ncube intends to continue developing jurisprudence around international criminal law to create access to justice for victims of international crimes. — Kerry Haggard