Vanja Karth - Director
Vanja has 26 years’ experience in managing programmes in the legal reform sector. She has worked both at a grassroots level with community-based paralegals as well as on numerous projects in the courts focusing on access to justice and court reform. When she was at the Law, Race and Gender Research Unit at UCT she focused on reform of the magistracy in post-apartheid in South Africa through social context training. She has been with the DGRU since its inception in 2008. She has been Director of the DGRU since 2017 and was Deputy Director before that. In 2016, Vanja was instrumental in setting up the Judicial Institute for Africa (JIFA) which provides university-certified short courses for judges and other legal stakeholders in Africa as well as a post-graduate qualification in judicial studies. She spearheaded setting up the African Network of Judicial Trainers in 2023 which has 17 founding member countries from around the continent . Vanja is a founding member of the iNtaka Center for Law and Technology at UCT and is currently the Deputy Director.
Vanja’s research interests lie in the functioning of judicial systems.
Vanja has an Mphil (cum laude) in Justice and Transformation from UCT and an Honours degree in Criminology from UCT. She did her BA at Stellenbosch University.
When not at work , Vanja can be found walking her dogs or finding a new corner of her neighbourhood to start a new guerilla gardening project.
Mariya Badeva-Bright – Title: Head : Africanlii
Mariya leads the AfricanLII project at the DGRU. She has worked on open access to law in Africa since 2004 and has assisted African governments to build free access law portals in 15 African countries. She co-founded the AfricanLII programme as a resource and a community hub for open access to law in Africa. Mariya is a co-founder at Laws.Africa NPO.
Mariya taught the Cyberlaw LLM and undergraduate course in Legal Information Literacy at the School of Law, Wits University for many years and is a founding member of the iNtaka Center for Law and Technology at UCT.
Mariya is a technology lawyer with an LL.M in Law and Information Technology from Stockholm University.
Mariya has a not-so secret passion for karaoke and is known for seeking out a karaoke bar no matter what city in the world she is in
Alison Tilley – Title: Co-ordinator of Judges Matter campaign
Alison is an attorney, specialising in transparency and accountability issues. She has litigated on transparency and whistleblowing issues in several High Court matters, the Labour Court, the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal. She was formerly the director of the Open Democracy Advice Centre.
She is the coordinator of the Judges Matter campaign which has an extensive campaign on judicial appointments and conduct processes.
Her publications include “The Right to Know, The Right to Live”, edited by Richard Calland and herself, and she contributes to the Daily Maverick. She also works on issues surrounding gender-based violence, particularly the rollout of post rape care with the Rape Survivor Justice Campaign.
Alison drinks coffee, reads books, and knows things.
Zikhona Ndlebe: Title: Researcher
Zikhona holds an LLB degree from the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and an LLM specialising in Labour Law from UCT. She is an admitted attorney of the High Court of South Africa with a High Court Right of Appearance. After being admitted as an attorney she practiced as an attorney at one of the prestigious law firms in Cape Town and specialised in Labour and Employment Law. She has represented clients at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and at the various Bargaining Councils. She has appeared at the Labour Court and has been involved in court cases up to the Labour Appeal Court. Zikhona conducts empirical research into the judiciary and magistracy, which aims to bring about positive change to the systems. Zikhona is passionate about social justice and in all the work she does she aims to ensure that social justice is realised!
When not working, Zikhona is out and about trying out new yoga moves. She is yet to master just one!
Vuyani Ndzishe – Title: Research Assistant
Vuyani started at the DGRU as a research and advocacy intern in the Judges Matters project and is currently a research assistant working on a number of research projects on judicial governance. He obtained his BA majoring in Political and International Studies and Legal Theory, and an LLB from Rhodes University.
Vuyani is a former fellow for the Fort Hare Autumn School on Social Democracy and Political Economy and Democracy Works Academy. He is currently reading for his LLM at the University of Cape Town. Outside of work, he is a committed Beyonce enthusiast.
Dimakatso Nchodu – Title: Research Assistant
Dimakatso has a BA in History and Law, an LLB, and an LLM in Constitutional Law and Administrative Justice from the University of Cape Town. Their final dissertation focused on the Constitutionality of the Covid Regulations under the Disaster Management Act; and how the lack of public participation in regulation-making had adverse effects especially, on gender-based violence, and early childhood development. They have a specific interest in Social Justice, Equal Access to Justice, Gender and Queer rights, Constitutional Law, and Human Rights Advocacy.
When they are not fighting for rights, they can be found celebrating social justice wins with tequila shots at your local bar.
Justice Alfred Mavedzenge – Title: Senior research fellow
Justice is a constitutional and human rights legal scholar and lawyer, who is a Senior Research Fellow at the DGRU. He also serves as Senior Legal Advisor at the Africa Judges and Jurists Forum and teaches cyber law in the Faculty of Law. Previously, he worked as Senior Legal Advisor at the International Commission of Jurists. He holds a PhD in Public Law (University of Cape Town), LLM Constitutional and Administrative law (University of Cape Town) and LLB (University of South Africa). Justice has been promising his colleagues a braai at his ‘new’ house for over 2 years now. They are still waiting.
Sibulele Mdleleni – Title: Content editor
Sibulele holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Library and Information services from the University of Cape Town. She has worked at a Central Records Management Centre for three years. She is passionate about easy access to information, management and safekeeping of documents and administration.
In her spare time , Sibu is always watching food videos on Tiktok and trying out new recipes, and skin care routines.
Ghati Nyehita – Title: Coordinator of the Virtual Clerks’ Program and researcher
Ghati is a PhD candidate at the University of Cape Town (UCT), specializing in Intellectual Property (IP) law. She holds an LLM from UCT, LLB from Kenyatta University and is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya. Ghati Nyehita coordinates the Virtual Clerks' Program, utilizing postgraduate law students from the University of Cape Town to provide research support to judges on diverse legal, political, and socio-economic subjects. She also promotes AfricanLII's access to law projects by overseeing and coordinating editorial activities. Additionally, Ghati contributes to various research and training projects offered by JIFA.
When she's not at work, you'll find her exploring the great outdoors on hiking trails or gracefully striking poses on a yoga mat.
Mbekezeli Benjamin – Title: Research and Advocacy Officer
Mbekezeli’s background is in constitutional litigation, legal research, and advocacy.
Prior to joining the DGRU in 2020, Mbekezeli worked at the Socio-Economic Rights Institute and the Equal Education Law Centre, where he focused on issues relating to the right to education, the right to housing, and the right to protest for activists. He has been involved in litigation from the district magistrates court all the way to the Constitutional Court.
He has made written and oral submissions before Parliament and provincial legislatures in South Africa, and the treaty bodies of the United Nations. Mbekezeli has written legal analysis articles across all national newspapers in South Africa and is regularly quoted on issues relating to the judiciary in print, radio, and television.
He has presented at conferences in Mexico, Germany, Portugal and the United States, and has delivered guest lectures at universities in South Africa and abroad.
Mbekezeli holds an LLB law degree from Wits University. He was awarded a residency at Stanford Law School (Mar – May 2019) and was featured in Mail & Guardian’s list of Top 200 Young South Africans for 2023.
Outside of work, and when not on TV as the local celebrity, he enjoys a frosted marguerita on the beach
Robyn Galiem – Title: Finance and Research Administrator
Robyn has been working in finance at UCT since 2014, coming from her previous position in EBE, she joined DGRU at the beginning of March 2016 in her role of Finance & Research administrator, while she enjoys working and learning in a law environment, her passion is photography with hopes of perfecting her talent in the near future.