Donald Barkly Molteno

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Donald Barkly Molteno (13 February 19081972), known as Dilizintaba ("He who removes mountains"), was a South African parliamentarian, constitutional lawyer, champion of civil rights and a prominent opponent of Apartheid. [1]

Constitutional law body of law

Constitutional law is a body of law which defines the role, powers, and structure of different entities within a state, namely, the executive, the parliament or legislature, and the judiciary; as well as the basic rights of citizens and, in federal countries such as the United States and Canada, the relationship between the central government and state, provincial, or territorial governments.

Apartheid system of racial segregation enforced through legislation in South Africa

Apartheid was a system of institutionalised racial segregation that existed in South Africa from 1948 until the early 1990s. Apartheid was characterised by an authoritarian political culture based on baasskap, which encouraged state repression of Black African, Coloured, and Asian South Africans for the benefit of the nation's minority white population. The economic legacy and social effects of apartheid continue to the present day.


He was born on 13 February 1908 in Cape Town, in the then Cape Province of South Africa, into a family with a long tradition of political involvement and public service in the Cape (his grandfather, John Molteno was its first Prime Minister).

Cape Town Capital city of the Western Cape province and legislative capital of South Africa

Cape Town is the oldest city in South Africa, colloquially named the Mother City. It is the legislative capital of South Africa and primate city of the Western Cape province. It forms part of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality.

Cape Province former province of South Africa

The Province of the Cape of Good Hope, commonly referred to as the Cape Province and colloquially as The Cape, was a province in the Union of South Africa and subsequently the Republic of South Africa. It encompassed the old Cape Colony, and had Cape Town as its capital. Following the end of the Apartheid era, the Cape Province was split up to form the new Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Western Cape provinces, along with part of the North West.

South Africa Republic in the southernmost part of Africa

South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. It is bounded to the south by 2,798 kilometres (1,739 mi) of coastline of Southern Africa stretching along the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans; to the north by the neighbouring countries of Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe; and to the east and northeast by Mozambique and Eswatini (Swaziland); and it surrounds the enclaved country of Lesotho. South Africa is the largest country in Southern Africa and the 25th-largest country in the world by land area and, with over 57 million people, is the world's 24th-most populous nation. It is the southernmost country on the mainland of the Old World or the Eastern Hemisphere. About 80 percent of South Africans are of Sub-Saharan African ancestry, divided among a variety of ethnic groups speaking different African languages, nine of which have official status. The remaining population consists of Africa's largest communities of European (White), Asian (Indian), and multiracial (Coloured) ancestry.

He attended Diocesan College and Cambridge University, where he graduated in 1930 with Honours in Law and was called to the Bar at the Inner Temple. After practising law for a time in London, he returned to South Africa in 1932 and was admitted as an advocate to the Bar of the Cape Provincial Division of the Supreme Court of South Africa. He was made a Q.C. in 1952 and practised at the Cape Bar until 1964.

Diocesan College South African secondary school

The Diocesan College, or Bishops as it is more commonly known, is an independent day and boarding all-boys school situated in the suburb of Rondebosch in Cape Town, South Africa. The school was established in 1849 by Robert Gray, Bishop of Cape Town.

Inner Temple one of the four Inns of Court in London, England

The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, commonly known as Inner Temple, is one of the four Inns of Court in London. To be called to the Bar and practise as a barrister in England and Wales, an individual must belong to one of these Inns. It is located in the wider Temple area of the capital, near the Royal Courts of Justice, and within the City of London.

He was also President of the Cape Bar Council from 1961 to 1963. [2]

Political career

Molteno was involved in anti-Apartheid politics from a young age. In 1937 he was approached by the ANC, who asked him to represent them in the House of Assembly.

He was elected a Member of Parliament at the age of 29, representing the Western Cape constituency for 11 years until 1948. During this time he was an exceptionally prominent and active MP in the opposition. He was a member of the Civil Rights League, Cafda and the Cape Joint Council of Europeans and Bantu. He was also the regional representative on the South African Institute of Race Relations in the Western Cape in 1936, and was its president from 1958 to 1960. [2] [3] [4]

Western Cape Province of South Africa on the south-western coast

The Western Cape is a province of South Africa, situated on the south-western coast of the country. It is the fourth largest of the nine provinces with an area of 129,449 square kilometres (49,981 sq mi), and the third most populous, with an estimated 6.6 million inhabitants in 2018. About two-thirds of these inhabitants live in the metropolitan area of Cape Town, which is also the provincial capital. The Western Cape was created in 1994 from part of the former Cape Province.

It was partly due to his fight against the segregationalist policies of J. B. M. Hertzog that he acquired the Xhosa name Dilizintaba ("Remover of mountains").

He went on to become the first chairman of the Liberal Party of South Africa's constitutional committee before he joined the Progressive Party (South Africa) and became chairman of its constitutional policy commission as well. He was also one of the Counsel engaged in the constitutional cases questioning the powers of the Union Parliament of South Africa after the passing of the Statute of Westminster in 1931. [2] [5]

Molteno was a supporter and the main legal advisor of the Black Sash movement, from soon after it began in 1955. The movement later wrote of him: "He taught us all we had to know about Civil Rights, about the inequities and iniquities of the pass laws and influx control...; and so very much more. His knowledge and experience illuminated all our efforts to inform and educate ourselves and the South African public." (The Black Sash, Feb. 1973)

Academic career and later life

Mr Molteno was a member of the University of Cape Town Council (from 1951 to 1960) as well as a part-time lecturer in Constitutional and Administrative Law at that institution. He lectured full-time at the Department of Roman Dutch Law from 1964, and in 1967 was appointed Professor of the newly created Department of Public Law. [2]

Molteno was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Law in 1970 - a position he held until his death in 1972. [2] He left two children by his first wife Veronica Strömsöe and three by his second wife Mary Fleet Goldsmith. The Dictionary of South African Biography (Vol.5, p. 515) described him as, "a man of great humanity, as well as of brilliant intellect."

He appears as a character in the novel 'Ah, but Your Land is Beautiful' by his colleague and contemporary Alan Paton.

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Further reading