From herding cattle as a young boy in the Eastern Cape to moving into the top echelons of Africa’s oldest law firm, Fairbridges Wertheim Becker, is the journey Zamuxolo Gulwa has taken.
Zamuxolo was born in Engcobo, to a father who worked in construction and a stay-at-home mother, who worked hard to create an environment in which her children would thrive. When Zamuxolo was around 10 years old, he went to live with his aunt and uncle, in Lady Frere, to help them with house chores, including looking after their livestock and collecting water from the nearby spring.
“I was young, but I wanted to go, I wanted to contribute and help my aunt and uncle. I was in grade 3 when I went to live with them, and I lived in their home as their child until I finished high school. While living with them we grew very close, and so I consider them my second set of parents,” says Zamuxolo.
In high school, he developed a strong love of reading and came across articles on anti-apartheid lawyer George Bizos and other political lawyers. He developed a keen interest in politics and law, how law and politics interact, and how the law governs us, in our everyday lives.
This was the first time Zamuxolo realised how his keen interest in politics, current affairs and law made him the perfect candidate to pursue a career in law.
It was his uncle’s dream for him to further his studies after school, but it didn’t seem like it would be financially possible.
As luck would have it when Zamuxolo reached grade 11, he was approached by a teacher who explained to him that if he could improve his marks, he would be eligible for a scholarship for his matric year. This was music to his ears as his father had lost his job about 10 years earlier and his uncle’s only income was the monthly social grant he received as a pensioner.
To lessen the financial strain on both sets of parents he became one of the top performing students in grade 11 and as a result, he was offered a scholarship from the African Scholars’ Fund, for his Matric year. Zamuxolo achieved top marks in Matric; in fact, he performed so well that he came first in his district. He received a full bursary from the Eastern Cape Premier’s Office and went on to attend the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and completed his LLB in 2015.
“Law is a mechanism for change,” he says, “and I wanted to pursue a career in an area where I could initiate real change and have a positive impact on the lives of those around me.”
In 2016, after completing his studies, Zamuxolo joined Fairbridges Wertheim Becker as a candidate attorney. In February 2018, Zamuxolo was admitted as an attorney of the High Court and been a practising associate lawyer at Africa’s oldest law firm. He mostly works on cases in commercial litigation, but is wanting to branch out further into following areas of law:
- Criminal Law
- Labour Law
- Tax Law
“I want to focus on these areas of law because the people struggling with issues in these areas usually do not get the level of representation they need, and I feel I can make a real impact in their lives. By seeking justice for those who have suffered as a result of injustices, I hope to make a difference.”
Another interest of Zamuxolo’s is business, and his understanding of business gives him an edge as a lawyer especially in his areas of interest, including Tax and Labour law.
“I believe adaptability and understanding are an important part of being a good lawyer because if you are unable to connect with and understand your client, their case and circumstances, how can you achieve the best outcome for that client?”
“As a lawyer, it is important to achieve your clients’ needs, however, it’s essential to be honest with your client and give them the advice that is in their best interest. Negotiating cases isn’t always easy, and it is up to the lawyer, to be honest with their client on what a realistic and attainable outcome is,” Zamuxolo concludes.
Zamuxolo is a lawyer who isn’t afraid to take on the hard cases.