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Keynote Address by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Hon JH Jeffery, MP, at the farewell function of Adv Thoko Majokweni-Sipamla, held in Waterkloof, 6 April 2018

Programme Director, Ms Mafani
Adv Thoko Majokweni
Members of the Majokweni- Sipamla family
The Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in South Africa, Ambassador Marisa Gerards
The Regional Representative of UNODC South Africa, Ms Zhuldyz Akisheva
The Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Adv Nomgcobo Jiba
Adv Majokweni’s colleagues from the NPA
Rev Kabanyane,
Ladies and gentlemen, friends

Thank you for the honour to be here and to be able to say a few words of farewell to a remarkable person.

Thoko Majokweni has dedicated her life to the pursuit of justice.

She completed her B Juris Degree in 1985 at the University of Transkei as well as her LLB Degree in February of 1987.

She was a magistrate, then a State Advocate from 1987 to 1993, then a Senior State Advocate from 1993 to 1996. She became Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions in 1996 and was the first African female to be appointed to this position.

She was then appointed by the President as the first female Special Director of Public Prosecutions in the Office of the National Director of Public Prosecutions in 1999.

She was specifically tasked to set up and head a unit that would specialise in dealing with gender-based violence, sexual and other offences, known as the Sexual Offences and Community Affairs (SOCA) Unit.

Over the years, she was at the forefront of setting up Sexual Offences Courts, the institutionalisation of prosecutor-led investigations in cases of gender-based violence and violence against children as well as the coordination of services for an efficient and responsive criminal justice system.

Under her able leadership, the SOCA Unit developed and introduced the Thuthuzela Care Centre-model as an integrated multi-disciplinary model, which is victim centred, with prosecutor-guided investigations, is court directed and involves stakeholder cooperation.

The goal of the model is to minimize secondary victimization, to reduce the cycle period from reporting until the case is finalised and to improve conviction rates in respect of these cases.

She has led the design and development of the TCCs, of which we currently have 55 across the country.

Since these centres were established, the process of reporting and prosecuting sexual offences has improved remarkably.

Secondary trauma to victims of sexual offences has also been reduced significantly.

In 2011, the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki Moon, recognized the Thuthuzela model as a world best practice model in the field of gender based violence management and response. 

Under her leadership, the SOCA Unit facilitated the development of several training manuals and programmes in relation to, amongst others, sexual offences, child justice, domestic violence, maintenance and trafficking in persons.

She has championed, developed and trained a corps of prosecutors, not only in our country, but also on the continent – and here we think of her involvement in the African Prosecutors Association – who are able to meet the highest standards in the administration of criminal justice.

She has won numerous prestigious awards for the efficient management of sexual offences in the Thuthuzela Model, such as the Impumelelo Gold Award for service delivery innovation and the Standard Bank CPSI Award.

These awards bear testimony to the pioneering work that she has successfully undertaken as an ambassador for innovation in the public service.

Thoko really has been at the forefront of innovation and leadership in the area of criminal justice.

She has served our people with distinction.

At times, it’s easy for all of us to get so busy, or trapped, in the day-to-day details of what we do, that we forget why we do what we do.

We serve.

Whether one is, like me, a public representative, or a prosecutor, or a judicial officer or a member of the diplomatic core, we are there to serve.  We do what we do for the people of our country, our region and our continent.

When prosecutors have their dockets, these are not pieces of paper in a file, these are the very lives and very real experiences - sometimes very traumatic experiences - of people. Prosecutors are assisting real people, with real problems.

When judicial officers have to hear matters in our courts, it’s not on hypothetical or academic questions, it’s about a legal situation that will have a very real and very direct impact on the lives of the people involved.

When members of the diplomatic core do their daily work it’s to further a country’s foreign policy objectives, often working towards the attainment of human rights in a country, a region or across the world.  

Bilateral and multilateral relations exist because, at the very heart of it, countries want to work together to make the world a better place. Very often they contribute significantly to the formulation of international law and work towards enhancing respect for the provisions thereof. 

We often talk about our Constitution – but how does the Constitution become a reality in the daily lives of people?  How do we give practical effect to the Constitution in such a way that it enables us to realize human rights?  It can only happen when those of us who serve the public, do the very best that we can.

Thoko has indeed served the people – and served them well.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Some of you may be familiar with the work of Dr Maya Angelou.  She was an African-American writer and poet and a civil rights activist who also, at one stage, taught at the University of Ghana.

Angelou herself, as a child, was the victim of rape and because of the trauma she stopped speaking for five years.

I recall that - it was in December 2014 - Thoko and I were both attending the 4th African Conference on Sexual and Gender Based Violence.

It was a very successful international event which Thoko was instrumental in organising, and at the event I quoted a poem by Maya Angelou, called “And still I rise”.

Thoko loved the poem.

So I thought it fitting to leave you with another quote from Maya Angelou.

In an interview Dr Angelou talks about a 19th-century African-American song, which was popularly known as “God Put A Rainbow in the Clouds.” She said the lyrics resonated strongly with her. Especially this line:

“When it looks like the sun wasn’t going to shine anymore, God put a rainbow in the clouds.”

And then Maya Angelou says:

“The thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud.

Somebody who may not look like you. May not call God the same name you call God — if they call God at all…. I may not dance your dances or speak your language.

But be a blessing to somebody. That’s what I think.”

Thoko, for many survivors of rape, sexual offences and violence, you have been a blessing, their rainbow in a time when they found themselves in the darkest of clouds.

We wish you all the very best as you embark on this new and exciting chapter in your life and in your career in Eritrea.

May you continue to work tirelessly in the pursuit of human rights.

May you continue to inspire and continue to lead.

I thank you.