David Bilchitz

Director, South african Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public, Human Rights and International Law

David Bilchitz grew up in a family that abhorred the social injustice of apartheid and its pass laws � and it was this consciousness that drove him into the work he does. An attorney, professor and director of the South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public, Human Rights and International Law (SAIFAC), Bilchitz matriculated the year South Africa became a democracy. "As a white South African, I benefi ted from apartheid � though I never actively played a part in perpetuating it � and so feel a moral responsibility to make a contribution to undoing its legacy,� he says. It was during his studies that Bilchitz became passionate about using the law to transform South African society. After studying law at Wits he won a scholarship to do his PhD at Cambridge University, later clerking for former Constitutional Court Chief Justice Pius Langa. An associate professor at the University of Johannesburg, Bilchitz has published numerous papers and journal articles and spent time as a visiting senior research fellow at Wits. But his work is not simply academic. Engaging with the realities of many South Africans is key to what he does. And as a gay Jewish man, Bilchitz has had to confront his fair share of prejudice and bigotry. "The spaces I inhabit do not allow me to insulate myself from the daily realities and hardship of life faced by so many and inspire me to do work that is both relevant and engaged with the society around me,� he says. He has been a vociferous campaigner for the rights of gay and lesbian people, working as a legal advisor to key gay community organisations in their bid to win marriage rights for same sex couples. Bilchitz is also a lay preacher to the small, close-knit Jewish community in Hillbrow, a gifted pianist, a vegetarian and an avid animal rights activist. � Lynley Donnelly

Lunch spot: Ninos, Braamfontein, Johannesburg