Arthur Chaskalson dies

2012-12-01 15:43

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Former chief justice Arthur Chaskalson died at age 81 in Johannesburg today.

Chaskalson was diagnosed with leukemia last week and immediately admitted to hospital.

Family members confirmed his death to City Press earlier today.

On Thursday his son, attorney Matthew Chaskalson, told Beeld newspaper: “My father has been through a difficult time. He is very ill but he’s still talking to us.”

The news sent shockwaves through South Africa’s legal fraternity.

Chaskalson had an illustrious career and was appointed chief justice to the Constitutional Court in 1994.

In 1963, Chaskalson, along with Bram Fischer, Joel Joffe, Harry Schwarz and George Bizos, was part of the former President Nelson Mandela’s defence team in the Rivonia Trial, which saw Mandela sentenced to life imprisonment.

He later left a very successful legal practice to become a human rights lawyer, helping to establish the Legal Resources Centre, a non-profit organisation seeking to use the law to pursue justice and human rights around South Africa.

Chaskalson gained a reputation as one of South Africa’s leading jurists in constitutional and human rights issues.

On 31 May 2005, Chaskalson retired from his role as Chief Justice, and was replaced by his former deputy Pius Langa.

In his 2005 State of the Nation speech and shortly before Chaskalson’s retirement, South African President Thabo Mbeki praised the Chief Justice as a “great son of our people” and a “giant among the architects of our democracy”.

As a gesture of gratitude, Mbeki paid tribute to Chaskalson for everything he had done “as a South African, a lawyer and a judge, to shepherd us towards the construction of a South Africa that truly belongs to all who live in it”.

- City Press

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