Van den Heever was born in Windhoek in 1926 but attended school in Bloemfontein. She went on to complete her MA in English at the University of Pretoria, and started to work at the normaalkollege in Bloemfontein. She then became a clerk for Mr Justice CP Brink, and began her LLB part-time through the University of the Orange Free State. In 1952 she was admitted to the Orange Free State Bar, and became an advocate. In 1968 she became a senior advocate, and in 1969 was appointed to the Bench in Kimberley. In 1979 she began to serve on the Bench of the Cape Provincial Division and from 1982–1985 was part of the Bophuthatswana Appeal Court. In 1991 she became the first female judge to be appointed permanently to the appellate division of the South African Supreme Court. She also served on the Lesotho Appeal Court from 1996.
Throughout her life Van den Heever has received various awards and honours, including the Chancellor’s Medal from the University of Pretoria (1996), an honorary LLD from the University of Stellenbosch (1997) and the Women’s Bureau Achievement Award (1987). She was also a member of the Women’s Bureau, chairperson of the board of the South African Library and a trustee of the Ballet Benevolent Fund of the Cape Performing Arts Board.
‘Soweto’ supplement, The Leader