Zakeria “Zak” Yacoob is a former Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa. He was appointed to the Bench in 1998 by Nelson Mandela.
From 1956 to 1966 he attended Arthur Blaxall School for the Blind in Pietermaritzburg. From 1967 to 1969 he completed a BA in English and Private Law at the then University College, Durban (now University of Durban Westville – UDW). From 1970 to 1972 he completed an LLB at UDW where he helped to organise activities that culminated in the first elected Student Representative Council, and he was heavily involved in many clubs and societies.
He served his pupillage in Durban in 1973, was admitted as an advocate of the Natal Provincial Division of the Supreme Court on 12 March 1973 and practised as junior counsel from July 1973 to May 1991. Zak took silk in 1991.
As an advocate, apart from his large general and commercial practice, he acted for many people charged under the security laws and those subjected to unfair or oppressive treatment under the Apartheid regime. He represented clients in many high profile matters, such as in 1984, the so-called ‘Durban Six’ who occupied a Durban consulate in a protest against Apartheid; the members of the UDF at the Delmas Treason Trial from 1985 to 1988; and members of the ANC in the Vula trial from 1990 to 1991.
Zak’s activities in politics reflect his opposition to injustice and Apartheid. He chaired the Durban Committee of Ten in 1980, assisting pupils opposed to the Apartheid regime, many of whom were in detention; was a member of the Natal Indian Congress (1981 to 1991); the Durban Housing Action Committee (1982 to 1985); the Durban Detainees’ Support Committee (1981 to 1985); Democratic Lawyers Association (1979 to 1984); the Natal Executive of the United Democratic Front (UDF); and the underground structures of the ANC in exile. He also participated in opposing the SA Indian Council and the Tri-Cameral Parliament, which supported Apartheid.
Zak’s activities extend to the community as well. He has served on many school committees, parent-teacher bodies, ratepayers’ associations, and civic organisations; he is involved in the activities of the Natal Indian Blind and Deaf Society and the SA National Council for the Blind; and was a member of its national management committee and national executive committee from 2001 to 2009. He served on the Council of UDW from 1989 to 1993 and 1995 to 1997, and as Chancellor from May 1981 to December 2003.
Zak has tirelessly fought for democracy in South Africa. He served on the Technical Committee on Fundamental Rights during the negotiation process; the Independent Electoral Commission from December 1993 to June 1994; and the Panel of Independent Experts of the Constitutional Assembly. He has advised numerous local and national government bodies including the National Land Committee and the Department of Finance; he has attended dozens of international conferences and workshops on topics as varied as blindness, children, and democracy.
Zak was born in 1948 and has lived in Durban most of his life. At the age of 16 months, as a result of meningitis, he became blind. Zak is married and has 2 adult children.