Deceased Academicians

Nicholas McNally


Nicholas McNally

Date of birth 22 December 1931

Place Gibraltar, United Kingdom (Europe)

Nomination 19 January 1994 - 19 January 2012 (Former Academician)

Field Law

Title Hon. Mr. Justice McNally

Place and date of death Johannesburg, South Africa † 23 January 2021

  • Biography
  • Publications
  • Commemoration

Diplomat, Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, 1954-1964; Legal Practitioner 1964-1981; Senior Counsel 1980; High Court Judge 1982-1984; Supreme Court Judge 1984-2001 (now retired); Judge of Appeal, Court of Appeal, Botswana. Chairman, Friends of a Catholic University in Zimbabwe; Chairman, Catholic University Board of Trustees; Trustee, Mashambanzou AIDS Care Trust; Member, Editorial Board, Zimbabwe Law Reports; Former Vice-President, Centre Party; Former Vice-Chairman, Zimbabwe Red Cross Society; Former Chairman, Mount Pleasant Town Management Board; Former Chairman, Campion Society.

Main publications
The only publications are judgements, which may be found in the Zimbabwe Law Reports, The South African Law Reports and the Law Reports of the Commonwealth, during the period 1981 to date. They cover various aspects of civil, criminal, commercial and constitutional law.

Commemoration by Professor Paulus Zulu during the 2022 Plenary Session

Justice Nicholas McNally was born in Gibraltar on December 22, 1931 and moved with his parents to the then Federation of Rhodesia as a young boy. He completed his education in Grahams Town in South Africa. After graduating with a Law Degree, he started his career as a Diplomat for the Federation. There are four distinguished features in Justice McNally.

1      A distinguished human rights lawyer

As an advocate, Nicholas McNally worked together with Sydney Kentridge, a distinguished human rights advocate from South Africa, and together they defended human rights activists persecuted under the draconian laws of the then Southern Rhodesia. In almost all cases the British Privy Council reversed the verdicts passed by the Rhodesian High Court, which acted from the dictates of the Smith Government that had unilaterally declared independence for Southern Rhodesia. Despite the reversals by the Privy Council, the accused were executed under the Rhodesian laws.

2      A political activist and a strong believer in non-racialism

When McNally was not defending victims of political persecutions, he was busy advocating for non racialism in Rhodesia, to the extent that he was instrumental in forming the Centre Party which fought a whites’ only election under a non-racial ticket. Again, because of the prevailing racial politics in the country, his party failed very poorly in the election of 1974.

3      A devout Catholic

McNally was a strong supporter of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, a body which strongly opposed the law which gave government officials, ministers and security forces indemnity for all crimes they committed provided they acted bona fide in the belief that they were suppressing terrorism. Fighters in the liberation struggle were victims of this law. On civil issues, McNally was one of the active Catholics that spearheaded the establishment of the Catholic University of Zimbabwe.

4      McNally the Judge

On his appointment as Judge of the High Court of Zimbabwe, McNally soon distinguished himself in the judgments that he penned. He had already become prominent in the acquittal of Tekere, a leader in the liberation struggle, when together with Louis Bloom-Coper QC they succeeded, despite bitter opposition from Ian Smith. McNally’s juridical acumen and independence of mind were soon noticeable when, as Judge of the High Court of Appeal in independent Zimbabwe, he twice rebooked the Government of President Robert Mugabe for undermining the rule of law. Upon his retirement in 2001, he was appointed to the High Court in Botswana where he served for a number of years. He died aged 89 years on the 23rd of January 2021 in Johannesburg, South Africa where he had finally retired to.


Comment (PDF) 2006

Comment: The Concept of the Human Person in Anglo-American Law (PDF) 2005