Former deputy SCA president 'KK' Mthiyane dies of Covid-19

28 January 2021 - 20:21 By Franny Rabkin
Justice Khayelihle 'KK' Mthiyane died of Covid-19 just days after his wife, S'thandiwe.
Justice Khayelihle 'KK' Mthiyane died of Covid-19 just days after his wife, S'thandiwe.
Image: eThekwini Living Legends

Former deputy president of the Supreme Court of Appeal, Khayelihle Kenneth “KK” Mthiyane, died on Thursday — succumbing to Covid-19 just days after his wife, S’thandiwe.

Mthiyane was deputy president of the appeal court from 2012 to 2014, and acted on the Constitutional Court in 2011.

Once described by former chief justice Pius Langa as “a gentleman”, Mthiyane was a well-loved leader of the legal fraternity. At a time when the transformation of the judiciary was putting a strain on collegiality, he was a unifying figure.

President of the Supreme Court of Appeal Mandisa Maya told TimesLIVE that Mthiyane  was an excellent judge and always a support for his colleagues, especially juniors.

“I wouldn’t have stayed at the SCA were it not for him. His children are all girls and I think that influenced the man he was, especially his gentle and respectful attitude towards women.

“I was the youngest at the court, the first and only black woman in the early days and it was extremely hard to fit in. But he took me under his wing and encouraged me to apply for a permanent position and later the leadership mantle,” she said.

Retired Constitutional Court Justice Edwin Cameron said Mthiyane was “a treasured, generous and deeply principled colleague”.

“I called him fondly Khayelihle, he fondly called me Lekgowa - and unbounded was his delight when a case came along S v Legoa [2003 (1) SACR 13 (SCA)] in which I was assigned [by him] to write the judgment."

Mthiyane was admitted as an attorney in 1975 and his firm KK Mthiyane and Company in Durban dealt mainly with public interest and political cases. He also had a general commercial, civil and criminal practice — involving litigants from disadvantaged communities, according to his biography on the Constitutional Court website.

Mthiyane joined the Durban Bar in 1984 and took silk in 1995. He was appointed a judge in 1997 and a judge of the Supreme Court of Appeal in 2001.

Mthiyane is survived by four daughters.