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THE legal fraternity in KwaZulu-Natal lost another leading member this week with the death of former acting judge Muzi Wilfred Mkhize. He died in his sleep on Sunday night after suffering a heart attack.
Mkhize (58), a senior counsel at the Durban Bar, acted as a judge in both the Eastern Cape and KZN.
He was a former defence lawyer for President Jacob Zuma and news in January 2009 that he was tipped to take over as the next National Director of Public Prosecutions after Vusi Pikoli caused an outcry.
Issues of impropriety were raised, including allegations of alleged Land Bank loan deals.
Members of the legal fraternity were shocked to learn about Mkhize’s death as many had seen him at Judge President Herbert Msimang’s funeral last Saturday.
According to his brother, Chris, Mkhize went to bed on Sunday night and asked to be awoken at five the next morning as he had to travel to Pretoria. When a family member went to wake him up he was dead.
Mkhize, who was born in Nkandla, was one of the first black senior counsel in the country.
He did a B. Proc degree at the University of Zululand, followed this up with an LLB and was admitted to the bar. He completed a masters of law degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
While a student and a lawyer, he was a committed anti-apartheid activist and was detained and held for 12 months without trial for being an uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) member.
He took pride in the fact that he was an MK intelligence operative.
Chris said his brother had a unique gift in being able to make friends with people across race groups and in all sectors of society. He was humble and very helpful.
Magistrate Ashin Singh, a close friend, said Mkhize paid university fees for a number of young black lawyers and set up many young advocates.
“I remember the night before my admission as an advocate, he sent someone to bring me a gown and a bib that he had bought as a gift. He had heard me saying earlier that I was not going to buy the gown but borrow one,” said Singh.
Mkhize’s funeral will take place at the Durban City Hall on Saturday from 9 am. He leaves three children.
His wife, Makhosazana, died in December last year.