Excitement over next step: Ngcobo
Johannesburg - There was a sense of excitement in going into the next the stage of his life, Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo said at his farewell ceremony at the Constitutional Court on Thursday.
"As I don this beautiful robe for the last day I look back at my years and I am filled with excitement with what lies ahead for myself, my family and the country."
Ngcobo equated the feeling with the one he felt "at the dawn of the new democracy".
He recalled how as a young boy he had gone with his father to court, which was held under a tree.
"It is fitting that my career ends under the tree depicted on the door of the Constitutional Court.
"I am going from chief justice to pensioner," Ngcobo said chuckling.
The Constitutional Court paid tribute to Ngcobo on Thursday after he handed down his last judgement.
Former chief justices Pius Langa and Arthur Chaskalson attended the ceremony, as well as former Constitutional Court judges Albie Sachs and Richard Goldstone, and human rights advocate George Bizos.
Heal past divisions
Justice Minister Jeff Radebe and his deputy Andries Nel were also in attendance.
During his farewell speech Ngcobo reflected on the role the Constitutional Court played in South Africa's democracy. He said its goals were to heal past divisions, lay the foundation for a democratic and open society, improve the quality of all citizens’ lives and build a united, democratic society.
"I will continue to watch the country flourish because of this court room."
Ngcobo thanked his family for their support as well as staff at the Constitutional Court and other courts he had served at during his career.
Ngcobo was appointed to the Constitutional Court in 1999 by former president Nelson Mandela. Prior to this he was a judge in the Cape High Court and the Labour Appeal Court.
On August 6 2009, President Jacob Zuma nominated Ngcobo to succeed Langa as the country's chief justice.
In July Zuma extended Ngcobo's term of office for five years, but after controversy over the decision Ngcobo declined the offer.
Zuma is currently in Burundi on a state visit.
No fear, favour or prejudice
Radebe, during his tribute, said Ngcobo had served the judiciary with excellence and dedication.
"He always passed judgement with an independent mind... [He] demonstrated the balance between personal values and the law. He showed no fear, favour or prejudice."
He said he was glad Ngcobo had run the full course of his career and said Ngcobo would continue to offer his services to the cause of justice.
Tributes to Ngcobo were also given on behalf of the Law Society of SA and the General Council of the Bar.
Law Society co-president Nano Matlala said Ngcobo had enhanced the judiciary's independence. He said Ngcobo had set a good example when he was able to admit his mistakes.
"The act you have taken is rare in South Africa, that when people make mistakes they own up to it."
Ngcobo had the vision of an ideal justice system, the Bar Council's Gerrit Pretorius said during his tribute.
"[He] was fair to all litigants... delivered results and responded to all needs.
"You were an effective leader," Pretorius said.
Ngcobo said he was deeply moved by all the tributes.
"I hope there is much left to say at my funeral," he said.