Judge Thoba Poyo-Dlwati

Judge Thoba Poyo-Dlwati is the first female Judge President of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Poyo-Dlwati was born and bred in the rural village of eNgcobo. She matriculated from the Mount Arthur Girls High School in Lady Frere, and thereafter completed her B-Proc at the University of Transkei (now Walter Sisulu University). She would later complete a Postgraduate Diploma in Tax from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and in 2005 acquired a certificate in commercial law from the BLA Legal Education Centre. Poyo-Dlwati’s legal career started in 1997 when she did her articles of clerkship (candidate attorney) at Jenny Budree & Associates. She didn’t stay long and later ceded the rest of her articles contract to Hoskins & Ngcobo Attorneys. It is at this firm that Poyo-Dlwati’s career thrived, and she quickly rose through the ranks from professional assistant (associate attorney) in 1997, to director in 2000. Two years after her initial admission as an attorney, she became a conveyancer in 1999. In addition to being an admitted conveyancer, she is also a qualified notary. Joining forces with one of the partners of her former firm, Poyo-Dlwati would later establish her own firm, Ngcobo Poyo & Diedricks Attorneys in 2000, where she stayed until her appointment as a judge in 2014.

She joined the Black Lawyers’ Association’s Pietermaritzburg branch at the very commencement of her legal career in 1997, and later became its secretary (1999) and chairperson (2003). She was also the secretary of the KZN branch of the SA Women Lawyers’ Association (2007 -2014), the vice president (2008-2010), and later president (2010 -2012) of the SADC Lawyers’ Association. Perhaps more importantly, she became the first black woman vice president (2003) and later president (2008) of the KZN Law Society, the legal regulator of the attorney’s profession in the province. She joined the SA Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges in 2016, and was elected vice president in 2021, continuing her activist streak. As a judge, Poyo-Dlwati has penned several judgments of significant public importance and development of the law.

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