Constitutional Court Justice Thembile Lewis Skweyiya attended primary school in Cape Town, but moved to boarding school at the Healdtown Institution in the Eastern Cape where he matriculated in 1959. Healdtown made an indelible impression on Thembile in that it offered a relatively relaxed non-racial environment in a society caught in the throes of apartheid. The staff was mixed – with an approximate 60%-40% White-African ratio, and the values of academic rigour, discipline, humanitarianism and religiosity permeating the staff’s approach to their profession. Given this fond attachment to the memory of his stay at the Healdtown institution, it is with great honour and enthusiasm that he serves on the Board of the Historic Schools Restoration Project.
Justice Skweyiya went from school to the University of Natal where he was awarded a Bachelor of Social Science degree in 1963 and an LLB by the same university in 1967 all the while being actively involved in student and national politics. In 1970 he was admitted as an advocate of the Supreme Court of South Africa and became a member of the Society of Advocates in Natal. He practised as an advocate in Durban and the bulk of his work was in civil and commercial litigation.
Together with his legal work Justice Skweyiya was also actively advocating for social justice and, from about the end of 1979, his work became more varied and he began handling cases not only in Durban, but in all Supreme Court divisions in Southern Africa involving mainly human rights and civil liberties cases; these were done in the face of the vicious onslaught by the intimidating machinery of the apartheid state.
Justice Skweyiya was admitted as an advocate of the High Court of Lesotho in 1974 and was a member of the Bar Council of Natal. In 1989 he became a senior advocate and in 1992 the High Court of Namibia admitted him as senior counsel. When he was admitted as a Senior Advocate to the High Court of South Africa in 1989 he was the first black South African to attain the status of silk (Senior Counsel). He took up a permanent appointment as a Judge in the Natal High Court of South Africa and acted as a Judge of the Constitutional Court to which he was appointed permanently in 2003. In 2008 he was appointed as the Chancellor of the University of Fort Hare. Justice Skweyiya has also held Directorships and served on numerous Boards of various companies. He is married to Sayo Nomakhosi Skweyiya and they have four children.