|Though she was born in Liverpool, grew up in Cape Town and loves Durban, Constitutional Court judge Kate O'Regan thrives on the progressive African beat of Joburg.|
JOBURG and Joburgers are "not hung up on the past" and that's why the city and its people are likeable, says Constitutional Court judge Kate O'Regan.
Joburgers are drawn from all over the country and are "very open", she adds. The city is "rapidly changing and engaged", which makes it very much an African city, with a "sense of the whole of South Africa".
O'Regan is qualified to judge - she has been in Johannesburg since 1994, although she lived in the city in the mid 1980s for four years, which she "enjoyed immensely". She worked for a law firm, specialising in labour law and land rights.
Although born in Liverpool, England, she moved to South Africa at the age of seven, and grew up and studied in Cape Town, where she obtained her LLB degree cum laude from the University of Cape Town (UCT) in 1980. The following year she obtained her honours degree from the University of Sydney.
After a three-year spell at the London School of Economics, where she obtained her PhD, she joined the Labour Unit at UCT as a senior researcher. In 1990 she joined the law faculty at UCT as a senior lecturer and taught civil procedure, evidence, labour law and initiated a course entitled "Women in the Legal System".
Two years later she was promoted to the post of associate professor. While at UCT she helped establish the Institute of Development Law and the Law, Race and Gender Research Project, and in the same year she became a trustee of the Legal Resources Centre.
She's written numerous articles for a wide range of journals and newspapers on labour law, land and housing, race and gender equality and constitutional law.
Ten years ago she settled into the suburbs of Joburg - "I didn't move back reluctantly" - and loves the highveld climate and vegetation. Being an avid gardener, her favourite places are Melville Koppies, and the botanical gardens at Emmarentia and Roodepoort.
Like many Joburgers, O'Regan finds Joburg well situated - close to the rest of South Africa, the bushveld, the Drakensberg and Mozambique. There's always a lot to do in Joburg, she says, and she visits the theatre, the galleries, the bookshops, and takes in the music on offer.
However, despite her obvious enjoyment of it, O'Regan feels that Joburg is "still a very divided city", with urban middle class people living very different lives to those in townships and the city centre.
"We need to feel safe in public places, and if we don't, that deprives the city of people using that space. We must make sure we don't lose public spaces in the city."
Although still some time off, when it comes to retirement, O'Regan would be "torn between the charms of the coast and the throb of the big city". She admits that she also likes Durban but hasn't decided where she would end up.
In the meantime, she'll continue to relish all this African city has to offer.