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Phumzile Elizabeth Sokhela
(South Africa)

LLM in International and Comparative Law, Trinity College Dublin

Before coming to Ireland, Phumzile worked as a Law Researcher at the Office of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Appeal in South Africa. She received a fellowship award in 2017-18 to study on the LLM in International and Comparative Law at Trinity College Dublin.

The Fellowship has opened my mind to new ways of thinking about South Africa’s challenges...

I was employed as a legal researcher at South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal, researching discrete areas of both constitutional and civil law. I also co-managed an NGO called Beyond Matric Foundation which provides career guidance to learners in the poorest areas in Gauteng and Northern Cape.

I chose to study a Masters in International and Comparative law because I wanted to develop my understanding of human rights. So far, the Masters has been well-rounded, providing me with new knowledge in relation to human rights in divergent contexts. For instance, I am learning about the implications of international economics and globalisation on human rights.

I will use what I have learnt to start my career at the Bar of South Africa as an advocate or within an NGO. I believe my Masters will elevate my chances of getting into one of these closed fields where there are few black women working. I will be able to compete for opportunities with some advantage, and will work within the field of human rights with a greater understanding of it.

South Africa and Ireland have a shared common history of colonisation and this influenced our judiciaries. Hence, I chose to write about our respective systems for the removal of misbehaving judges. I hope that my work will elicit important points in the present debate concerning Ireland’s proposed legislation on this subject.

Until I came to Ireland I had never been outside of South Africa for studies or work. The Fellowship has opened my mind to new ways of thinking about South Africa’s challenges, and my role in solving the ones closest to my heart i.e. human rights violations. But I think most importantly, it has exposed me to different people from different backgrounds. I am enriched by this, and it is exactly what I had hoped for.  

Looking at my future, I want to continue my work in the practice of human rights. The likes of Kader Asmal, Steve Biko, and Ahmed Kathrada gave up their lives for our country, and I think it is only fair that we try to protect that legacy. I am grateful to Irish Aid for assisting in that endeavour. I also plan to expand the NGO I managed - Beyond Matric Foundation, so that we can reach more learners.