Obituary: KZN Judge Jan Hugo

2011-07-26 00:00

RETIRED KwaZulu-Natal judge Jan Hugo died after suffering a heart attack yesterday at Clarens in the Orange Free State.

Hugo (69) leaves his wife, Nellie, and two sons, Johan and Pieter.

Hugo’s former colleague and a close friend, retired judge Nic van der Reyden, said he had been held in high regard by all his fellow judges in KwaZulu-Natal.

Van der Reyden said, “He was one of the most brilliant judges on our bench and he had an unbelievably sharp mind.

“He always cut to the nub of any problem and he was to the point.

“Apart from that he was also a man of great empathy.

“He had a heart of gold and he always blended his sentences with a measure of mercy.”

Judge van der Reyden said he believes it was “unfortunate” for Hugo when he was appointed to preside over the controversial trial of former apartheid era Defence Minister General Magnus Malan and others arising from the politically motivated murders of 13 peole at KwaMakutha during 1987.

Following a seven-month trial, judge Hugo acquitted the accused on October 11, 1996, finding there was insufficient evidence against them.

“Personally I believe that case became an albatross around his neck.

“Not that his decision was incorrect, but I believe the government of the day was not happy with the verdict,” said Van der Reyden.

“I believe that Judge Hugo deserved to become judge president, but that did not come about,” he added.

Judge Hugo was born in Benoni and went to Greys College. He obtained his LLB degree through Unisa.

He worked for the Department of Justice in Pretoria before joining the Pretoria bar.

During the mid-eighties he was offered an appointment as an acting judge in KwaZulu-Natal and soon afterwards was appointed permanently.

Advocate Adrian Rall SC, chairperson of the Pietermaritzburg bar, said it was with great sadness that the bar had learned of judge Hugo’s untimely death yesterday.

“He served for many years with distinction on the KwaZulu-Natal bench.

“He was well liked and deeply respected by the members of the bar. Apart from his legal ability and sound judgment he was known for his friendliness and quick wit.”

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