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Rhodes mourns the passing of former Chief Justice Pius Langa

Date Released: Wed, 24 July 2013 16:59 +0200

24 July 2013

Rhodes University joins South Africans, the Constitutional Court and the Chief Justice of the Republic of South Africa Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, in expressing deep sadness at the passing of the former Chief Justice of the Republic of South Africa, Dr Pius Langa.

Former Chief Justice Dr Langa, served the nation with great distinction not only as Senior Counsel, President of Nadel, and Justice of the Constitutional Court but also in his capacity as Deputy Chief Justice and later as Chief Justice of the Republic. He was among the first Judges to be appointed to the Constitutional Court in 1994.

His enormous contribution to the development of South Africa’s Jurisprudence is known and appreciated worldwide. It was this contribution and involvement in the struggle for justice that saw him receive numerous awards including being honoured in 2008 with the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, by Rhodes University.

In awarding him the LLD degree the University, through its Public Orator, Distinguished Professor Paul Maylam, noted the following:

“Pius Nkonzo Langa’s  entry into the judicial world was first as a court messenger and then an interpreter in the Department of Justice. He saw magistrates failing to give the accused a fair hearing, and witnessed clear miscarriages of justice. Now came the realisation that he had to qualify as a lawyer so as to be equipped to fight for those who could not defend themselves. This realisation, together with his own early-life exposure to poverty, racism, and oppression, made him determined to achieve this goal – hence the years of study.

“From interpreter he rose to become a prosecutor and magistrate; then, in 1977, an advocate of the Natal Supreme Court. Now Pius Langa was in a position to act for the oppressed and voiceless. This inevitably meant a heavy involvement in political trials, his clients including civic bodies, trade unions, and individuals facing political charges.

“Pius Langa become a founder member of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers, serving as its president from 1988 to 1994; also a founder member of the Release Mandela Committee; and deeply involved in the structures of the United Democratic Front.

“With this legal and political experience he was, not surprisingly, in the early 1990s drawn into the negotiating process prior to South Africa’s first democratic election in 1994, serving as a member of the ANC’s constitutional committee and helping to draft the party’s proposals for a new constitution.

“This involvement made him an obvious appointee as a judge of the Constitutional Court in 1994. He recalled the Court’s first judgement, leading to the abolition of the death penalty, and the excitement this judgement brought to the members of the Court. Three years later he became Deputy President of the Court, and then Deputy Chief Justice in 2001 – the prelude to his elevation in 2005 to the position of Chief Justice.”

The Rhodes University community offers heartfelt condolences to the family, and we wish them strength in these trying and difficult times.

For former Chief Justice Pius Langa Honorary Citation Click Here