As the world watches the trial and sentencing of Olympian Oscar Pistorius, they’ve had a rare chance to observe one of the first black women to become a judge in South Africa.
She’s earned the respect of solicitors, co-workers and her staff.
Thokozile Matilda Masipa, 66, has come a long way from her humble origins in a black township outside Johannesburg where she worked as a clerk, a messenger and a tea girl.
“I had a real experience of what life was like when you were black and you were not educated. I’d seen these white… girls working on the offices, typing, doing all kinds of things,” she said.
At one point she felt further education was worthless - that she would never break through the racial barriers.
But her mother urged her on, and she went to university, became a journalist, was briefly imprisoned in the struggle against apartheid, and then decided to study law, as South Africa was beginning its slow journey towards democracy.
In a separate interview of Masipa’s fellow journalists, one of them said the future judge withdrew from her friends to study law in the library. They said she had an early understanding that apartheid would end, and she wanted to take part in the new South Africa.