Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo was born on 1 March 1953 in Durban, South Africa.  Ngcobo was the beneficiary of a scholarship from Barclays Bank between 1973 and 1976. In 1975 Ngcobo graduated from the University of Zululand with a B Proc (Bachelor of Law), earning distinctions in constitutional law, mercantile law and accounting and was admitted as an attorney in 1981.  

In 1985 he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and in 1986 he was the recipient of a Harvard Law School Human Rights Fellowship.

Ngcobo was in detention from 1976 to July 1977. From September 1977 to April 1978 he worked in the Maphumulo magistrate's office.  Ngcobo then joined KK Mthiyane and Company, a law firm in Durban. As an articled clerk and then as an associate attorney, he performed general law office work - such as registering corporations, advising corporate directors, administering deceased persons' estates and conducting criminal and civil trials.

In 1982 he moved to the Legal Resources Centre, also in Durban. Here, as an attorney at law, he was involved in public-interest civil and criminal cases involving issues such as the ejection of tenants from townships; the forced removal of black communities to homelands; influx control laws; police torture and assault; wrongful detentions; labour disputes; and the eviction of black squatters.

His Supreme Court experience involved preparing pleadings and briefs, and preparing cases for trial and appeal. Cases involved the unlawful transfer of teachers, the cancellation of black pupils' matriculation results and the cancellation of medical students' scholarships.

In 1985, he obtained a Bachelor of Laws degree from the then University of Natal, Durban, now University of KwaZulu-Natal.  In 1985 he also completed an orientation course on the United States' legal system, given by the International Law Institute at the Georgetown Law Centre in Washington DC.

He was awarded a Master of Laws degree from Harvard Law School where he specialised in Constitutional law, labour law, international legal process and international human rights in 1986. 

Between 1986 and 1987, he spent 12 months as a law clerk and research associate of the late Leon Higginbotham jnr, the former head of the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

At the beginning of 1988 he returned to South Africa and took up the post of acting director of the Legal Aid Services Clinic of the University of Natal, Durban. From August of that year he taught a course on race legislation, also at the University of Natal.

He was appointed judge of the then Industrial Court and a judge of the Independent Electoral Commission in 1993, before he became a Cape High Court judge in 1996.  In 1997, he served as a Labour Appeal Court judge until 1999, when he was appointed to the Constitutional Court.  In 1998, he also served as a judge on the TRC's Amnesty Committee

Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo has taught law at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (then Natal), New York Law School, Harvard and Columbia Universities.  He was made an Honorary Professor at the University of Cape Town in 1999.  Ngcobo also helped teach a seminar titled "Race Values and the American Legal Process" at the University of Pennsylvania, at Harvard Law School and at Stanford Law School.

From August to November 1987 Chief Justice Ngcobo was a visiting foreign attorney at Pepper, Hamilton & Scheetz in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he specialised in labour law.

From December 1988 to November 1989 he practised as an advocate in Durban. In December 1989 he returned to Pepper, Hamilton & Scheetz in Philadelphia, where he was an associate attorney in a firm of about 300 lawyers. He specialised in labour and immigration law.

In 1992 Ngcobo returned to South Africa and practised as an advocate in Durban. His focus was labour and employment law, constitutional law and general practice. In 1994 he lectured part-time in constitutional litigation.

From April 1996 to the end of August that year, Ngcobo was an acting judge of the Supreme Court, Cape of Good Hope Provincial Division. In September 1996 he was made a judge of the same division. From January to December 1997 he was an acting judge of the Labour Appeal Court; in November that year he was appointed a judge of the court.  In 1999 Ngcobo was appointed the acting Judge President of the Labour Court and Labour Appeal Courts.

President Jacob Zuma officially announced Judge Sandile Ngcobo as the new Constitutional Court Chief Justice in Pretoria on 1 October 2009. Judge Sandile Ngcobo, will take over from retiring Chief Justice, Pius Langa to head the country’s Constitutional Court.  

Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo is married to Zandile, and has one daughter, Nokwanda, and two sons, Ayanda and Mangoba.

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