Lawyers celebrate Chaskalson's struggle

2012-12-02 22:44


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Johannesburg - The contribution of former Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson to the struggle against apartheid was celebrated by the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (Nadel) on Sunday.

"He served the country with excellence as a distinguished jurist and a fighter for democracy, human rights and the rule of law," Nadel said in a statement.

"His commitment to democracy and constitutionalism was not newly-found post 1994."

Chaskalson, 81, died in Johannesburg on Saturday after battling leukaemia, according to the SABC.

Nadel said he had used his skills to defend those who fought against apartheid, as well as the poor and marginalised.

Chaskalson represented members of the liberation movement in several major political trials, including the Rivonia Trial.

He also contributed to the constitution-making process once the African National Congress was unbanned in the early 1990s.

"After his retirement from active service on the Bench, Justice Chaskalson continued to make a contribution to matters relating to the transformation of the legal profession and to South Africa's democracy," said Nadel

It sent its condolences to Chaskalson's wife Lorraine, their children and the rest of his family.

The SA National Editors' Forum (Sanef) described Chaskalson as "an untiring champion of an open democratic society".

"As the media fraternity we will particularly remember Justice Chaskalson for striving to ensure that the courts were open and friendly to the public and the media," it said on Sunday.

He opened the Constitutional Court for live coverage of judgments and also arranged for summarised judgments to be available to the media.


While he was Chief Justice, the full Bench of the Constitutional Court held regular meetings with editors, giving the media a greater understanding of its work and an appreciation of constitutionalism.

"Justice Chaskalson's commitment to openness of the judicial system set an example for the other levels of courts, which now allow regular live coverage of hearings and judgments," Sanef said.

The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) said South Africans should honour Chaskalson's memory by safe-guarding democracy.

"We owe it to his memory to make sure that we never undermine the democratic foundations he laid down in his lifelong commitment to promote social justice and human rights," said Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven.

He extended Cosatu's condolences to Chaskalson's friends and family, and said he had spent his life serving the people of South Africa.

"He used his great legal skills to advance the struggle for freedom and democracy, from his role as one of the lawyers who defended Comrade Nelson Mandela during his trial in 1993/94, through his work as head of the Legal Resource Centre from 1978 to 1993..."

Chaskalson was appointed as the first president of the Constitutional Court in 1994 and served as Chief Justice until 2005.

Tributes have poured in for Chaskalson from political parties, the legal fraternity and civil society.

SA Human Rights Commission spokesperson Isaac Mangena said the Commission was deeply saddened by his death.

"He will be remembered not only for his landmark judgments; his fight for human rights and his development of our constitutional jurisprudence, but also as a person of integrity and courage," he said.

Inkatha Freedom Party president Mangosuthu Buthelezi wished Chaskalson's family strength.

"South Africa has lost a brilliant legal mind and great intellectual," he said on Sunday.

Buthelezi said he would remember Chaskalson as a leading figure in the struggle against apartheid, and later, as being in the forefront of the quest for justice, reconciliation and reconstruction.

"The late Justice Chaskalson was, without a doubt, a heroic and courageous man who was resolutely committed to building a united nation out of all the diverse peoples of South Africa," he said.

Read more on:    cosatu  |  human rights commission  |  sanef  |  patrick craven  |  mangosuthu buthelezi  |  johannesburg  |  judiciary

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