‘Brilliant and hard-working’ KZN Judge President dies

2011-04-08 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL Judge President, Herbert Msimang, died yesterday evening in the intensive care unit (ICU) at Midlands Medical Centre in Pietermaritzburg where he had been receiving treatment for a heart ailment.

The Witness was able to confirm Msimang’s death with a close family friend and colleagues last night.

He had been in the ICU since early February after reportedly suffering a second stroke.

Msimang was appointed to the Bench in KwaZulu-Natal in January 2002, and was appointed Judge President of the High Court on April 29, 2010.

He came under intense public scrutiny during 2005 and 2006 when he presided over now-President Jacob Zuma’s corruption trial in Pietermaritzburg.

In September 2006 he struck the case off the court roll after refusing a request by the prosecution for a postponement.

Msimang has been described by colleagues and former teachers as having a “brilliant legal mind” and an impressive memory.

Msimang practised law in Pietermaritzburg for many years from about 1981 in the practice Rutsch and Msimang.

The firm later amalgamated with Shepstone, Wylie & Tomlinson to become Tomlinson, Mnguni & James.

Last year one of Msimang’s four daughters, Ayanda, was admitted as an attorney. She is the only member of the family to follow in her father’s footsteps.

While Msimang’s family was still too traumatised to comment last night, retired KwaZulu-Natal Judge President, Vuka Tshabalala, who preceded Msimang, last night paid tribute to him and described him as “brilliant and hard working”.

Tshabalala said Msimang’s death was a sad loss to the province.

“He introduced a number of changes into the court system, which seem to be working well.”

The office of KwaZulu-Natal Premier, Dr Zweli Mkhize, also sent a statement of condolence.

“We have put in place laws, which protect the weak and vulnerable members of society — children, orphans, women, and people living with disabilities, ill-health and others.

“Judge Msimang played a tremendous role during the creation of such laws,” said the statement.

Msimang was a commissioner for the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in the province for the last five years. Head of IEC in KZN, Mawethu Mosery, said: “As the IEC commissioner, the judge was a strict person who made us respect the law especially when it comes to very contested matters.

“He left us when we are closer to the elections, and we don’t have time to find a person with his wisdom to replace him.”

Also shocked by the death was Pietermaritzburg Judge David Ntshangase.

“I did not know about his death. I’m shocked and out of words.

“He had a vision of where to take our courts to,” said Ntshangase.

According to the IEC’s website, Msimang obtained law degrees at the University of Zululand (B. Juris), the Tulane University of Louisiana (LLM) and the University of South Africa (LLB).

After lecturing in private law at the University of Zululand for a number of years, Msimang practised as an advocate at the Lesotho Bar in Maseru and as an attorney in what is now Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal, prior to his appointment as judge of the High Court in the province.

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