Local woman gets SADC lawyers’ vote

2010-08-27 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG attorney Thoba Poyo-Dlwati was elected president of the Southern African Development Community Lawyers’ Association (Sadcla) at its annual meeting in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo, at the weekend.

Poyo-Dlwati is the first woman to hold the position in Sadcla, which provides leadership to 11 constituent members of the association. It campaigns against human rights abuses and promotes human rights (especially the rights of women, people with disabilities and children), the rule of law, independence of the judiciary and the legal profession.

The new president was dressed in a simple white cotton shirt and slacks when interviewed at her office this week, despite the prestige of the office and its responsibilities. Far from being an authoritative power dresser with her eyes on the clock, Poyo-Dlwati is soft-spoken and down-to-earth with a generous smile. She has a husband and two young children, loves to party with friends and says she cannot live without three-quarter pants and meat.

Growing up in rural Transkei, Poyo-Dlwati was inspired to become a lawyer after her brother, who was around 12 years old at the time, was locked up in jail for about nine days after a boy was killed.

“The police had arrested the [entire group of boys present]. I wanted to do something and there was nothing that I could do then. So I moved into law because I wanted to help people, especially those who cannot speak for themselves,” said Poyo-Dlwati.

Poyo-Dlwati has been practising law for the last 12 years in Pietermaritzburg and plans on staying here.

“Pietermaritzburg has that balance; it’s not too hectic.”

As laid-back as she may seem, Poyo-Dlwati is not sitting in the back seat.

She joined the provincial law society in 2002 and was president in 2008. In 2009, she was elected co-chairperson of the Law Society of South Africa.

She joined Sadcla in 2003 and has been an executive member since 2006.

Regardless of all these achievements, Poyo-Dlwati says that she is still learning new things every day.

“With every person you meet and with any situation you encounter, learn something,” said Poyo-Dlwati.

“Always remember your roots and allow yourself to be mentored by those senior to you.

You are unique and nothing is impossible with God. And please, don’t take short cuts!”

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