In This Review

Upington: A Story of Trials and Reconciliation
Upington: A Story of Trials and Reconciliation
By Andrea Durbach
Allen & Unwin, 2000, 282 pp
Black Lawyers, White Courts: The Soul of South African Law
Black Lawyers, White Courts: The Soul of South African Law
By Kenneth S. Broun
Ohio University Press, 2000, 310 pp

Much of South Africa's success in political transformation is due to its strong legal traditions and the courage of its small group of predominantly white human-rights lawyers. These two works illuminate the complexities of this recent legal history while revealing much about the personal dimensions of lawyering in a racially divided society. Durbach's perceptive memoir recounts her experiences as part of the defense team in a notorious public violence trial during the late 1980s -- in which the trial judge, applying the principle of common purpose, convicted 25 Africans of a political murder and sentenced 14 of them to hang. To save them, the defense had to exploit every opening provided by the law, the facts, and the fast-changing political order. Broun, an American law professor, has interviewed several dozen black South African lawyers of varying ages. His book explores their personal and professional histories in depth, highlighting the enormous handicaps they overcame to win equality in a profession long dominated by whites. Both works provide useful and engaging introductions to the peculiarities of South Africa's legal system in the apartheid era.