When Nomboniso passed away suddenly in 2017, the legal empowerment community lost one of its strongest advocates and biggest hearts.
Nomboniso contracted cerebral malaria while on a trip to Malawi, where she had been laying the groundwork for the African Centre of Excellence for Access to Justice. She passed away within days.
Nomboniso was a guiding light for the legal empowerment movement. As the director of the National Alliance for the Development of Community Advice Offices (NADCAO), she fought for — and won — recognition and financing for community-based paralegals across South Africa. Due to her leadership, these victories are now enshrined in national legislation as well as in the country’s Open Government Partnership National Action Plan.
But her efforts did not end at home. Nomboniso dreamed of a paralegal movement that could operate both sustainably and at scale, not only in her own country but around the world. She served as a cherished advisor to the Global Legal Empowerment Network since its earliest days, playing a key role in our campaign for justice in the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The African Centre of Excellence for Access to Justice (ACE-AJ) was the fruit of her latest efforts to strengthen community justice institutions across the continent.
Yet, Nomboniso’s work continues. In August 2017, at a pan-African conference in Rwanda, representatives from government, judiciaries and community justice institutions convened to formally launch the ACE-AJ. The culmination of Nomboniso’s tireless efforts, the ACE-AJ is a key element of her legacy. She should have been there to preside over the event; her absence was keenly felt.
Nomboniso was an extraordinary woman of rare talent. Her brilliance, dedication, and charm swayed governments and inspired civil society. Her sense of humor and energy brightened every room she entered. Her laughter was contagious, her generosity boundless.