Mourners pay tribute to ‘gentle giant’ Langa at memorial service

2013-08-02 00:00

DESPITE a sombre mood in the Durban City Hall yesterday, hundreds of mourners were able to celebrate the life and times of former chief justice Pius Langa (74).

Speaker after speaker spoke of “the gentle ­giant” who was a father figure and a role model, and who shied away from publicity and remained humble despite his rise to the highest judicial office.

Langa died last week after battling illness for some time.

Mourners included cabinet ministers and government officials, members of the legal fraternity and the judiciary, as well as academics, family and friends.

In his tribute, the deputy president of the Supreme Court of Appeal, Kenneth Mthiyane, said Langa had given his all to the liberation struggle.

“He did not have an AK47, his AK47 was located in his head and the indomitable will to serve his country by representing those who fought physically.”

Mthiyane was Langa’s friend and served as his junior when he was senior counsel.

Langa, Mthiyane said, had not allowed the high office to go to his head.

Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke spoke of Langa’s amazing patience. “He had what I call silent strength. He had capacity to absorb pain.”

He said Langa trusted God and the people he served.

“Leaders work for people, not the other way round. That is the justification to be a leader,” Moseneke said.

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said Langa preferred to speak truth to power and upheld the values of the Constitution. “He strengthened our constitutional democracy.”

University of KZN vice-chancellor Professor Malegapuru Makgoba described Langa as a mentor and a father who was passionately driven by a sense of justice.

In her tribute, Langa’s daughter, Phumzile, spoke fondly of her father’s love for music — jazz in particular.

“Out of many of the gifts God bestowed on him, singing was not,” she pointed out with a smile.

“He had incredible memory to recite. It was easy for him to recite,” Phumzile said, adding that her father was selfless. “We could not have asked for a better father than him.”

Langa’s wife, Beauty, died in August 2009. The couple had six children.

Langa will be buried tomorrow at the Redhill Cemetery in Durban North after an official funeral to be held in the city hall.

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