Meet our team – Tendai Bonga

09 November 2017

We know that the legal profession has a bit of a dull reputation so in this short series we will be helping you get to know our team - so that you can learn more about what makes an environmental professional tick (it isn’t all chaining ourselves to trees - although some of us do enjoy a spot of activism!).

Last time we met action-woman Melissa Groenink, who expresses her love of nature and the environment through extreme feats of physical fitness, and who you can get to know here.

This time around we’re inviting you to get to know Tendai Bonga – an Associate at Cullinans and our resident martial artist. A Zimbabwean, born and bred, Tendai has been admitted to the High Courts of both South Africa and Zimbabwe, and has experience practicing law in both countries.

Tendai, a father to Mukudzei (aka the cutest baby in the world!), is passionate about using his skills, experience and passion to take on some of the greatest challenges facing our planet – namely the fight against climate change, and the drive for truly sustainable and inclusive development. Since joining the firm Tendai has worked on several important cases and has enjoyed some big wins – particularly in the firm’s successful representation of the Harrismith Business Forum in opposing the construction of the De Beers Pass Route.

Get to know more about Tendai in our Q&A!

What are your nicknames?

Tendai Bonga aka Tindo (common Zimbo nickname for Tendai!)

What skill would you like to master?

Work-related: Public speaking/presentations ,Non-work: Mountain climbing 

What lesser-known talent/skill do you have?

I’m an Aikido enthusiast (currently ranked/graded 3rd Kyu by the Aikido Federation of South Africa)

How do lawyers in Cape Town compare to those in Zim?

Due to the diverse (& functional) nature of South Africa’s economy, specialisation is very common in Cape Town/SA, whereas in Zim most lawyers are generalists i.e. litigation attorneys.  

Was it difficult finding your feet in Cape Town when you moved here?

My move was initially quite difficult, mainly because I didn’t know anyone at all in Cape Town & finding accommodation was an absolute nightmare (you can’t pay me enough to spend another night in a BnB!).

Is your son Mukudzei the cutest baby in the world?

He’s definitely a smart and handsome young lad!

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

“Look after yourself out there, not everyone is a God-fearing Christian like you” (said to me by father as I was about to board the plane at Harare International Airport, for my solo trip to University in Johannesburg).   

Why did you decide to go in to environmental law?

Taking environmental law as an elective in my final year of law school was like a breath of fresh air. It stirred a passion within me to use the law to advocate/fight for issues that actually matter i.e. climate change and sustainable development.

What case/matter/situation has affected you most since you began practicing?

Successfully opposing the De Beers Pass Route is a greatly cherished victory!

If you could rewrite one aspect of the South African legal system, what would it be and why?

I would revisit the High Court appeal system. It defies logic that a judge who has presided over a matter, is the decision maker regarding an application for leave to appeal a decision in that same matter. Unfortunately human nature (egotism at times) renders this arrangement impractical.

What area of environmental law is closest to your heart, and why?

Definitely the Environmental Impact Assessment process. I enjoy participating in the many facets of the EIA process i.e. public participation, reviewing specialist reports, drafting objections, appeals etc. You not only think like a lawyer but become up-skilled in various other disciplines e.g. resource and transport economics, wetlands etc .  

What makes you hopeful for the future?

 A very strong belief that I have what it takes to make a difference in people’s lives through my work and within my social circles.

What are the top 3 things you would like to accomplish in your future?

1) become a seasoned environmental law specialist

2) travel the world extensively

3) Be an inspiring leader/role model (professionally/socially).




12 November 2017

Rights of Nature Tribunal in Bonn finds legals systems incapable of preventing climate change

Cormac Cullinan was a judge on the Tribunal, which heard seven cases from around the world which collectively demonstrated that global and national climate change commitments cannot be met without fundamental changes to the legal systems which legalise the activities that cause climate change and the destruction of the ecological systems on which life depends

03 November 2017

Cormac Cullinan to judge case at International Rights of Nature Tribunal

"Cases will be presented regarding violations of nature’s rights from all over the world"

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