Zuma's time to apologise

President Zuma uses funeral of Justice Pius Langa to address the highly sensitive issue of Ben Langa’s shooting

President Jacob Zuma yesterday again apologised to the family of Ben Langa, the brother of former Chief Justice Pius Langa, for his assassination at the hands of fellow ANC members during the 1980s.

Zuma used the televised official funeral of Justice Langa, held at Durban’s City Hall, to address the highly sensitive issue of Ben Langa’s shooting by Lucky Phayi and Sipho Xulu in Pietermartizburg in 1984.

He was murdered after the ANC fell for a Security Branch plan to set him up as an informer.

The ANC apologised to the family many years ago, while former president Thabo Mbeki – who was also at yesterday’s funeral – apologised to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Zuma said he respected the Langa family for its “resilience, its foresight and its ability to look beyond adversity when faced with difficult situations”.

He said the family had gone through “indescribable pain” after Ben’s assassination.

Apartheid security police used their agents within the ANC to plant a story fingering him as an enemy agent.

“They manipulated his friends and comrades into killing him, thinking that they were saving the movement.

“The wrong person happened to occupy a high structure so that when he told them to undertake this operation, they had no reason not to believe their commander. He was a wrong man and worked for the apartheid system. The two assassins ... were later arrested and sentenced to death,’’ he said.

He said Judge Langa had “carried the pain of the family’’ to Lusaka and met with him and Mbeki to discuss the assassination.

“We promised to investigate. We did investigate and that’s why we were able to get the truth,” Zuma said.

“It is remarkable that despite this devastating incident the Langa family never turned its back on the movement or on the struggle to build a better South Africa.”

The City Hall was packed with current and former leaders of Cabinet, the judiciary and Parliament, and members

of the legal fraternity, all gathered to pay tribute to the former chief justice who died last month after spending a month in hospital.

Some of South Africa’s finest legal minds and an array of academics mingled with parishioners from Langa’s church.

Judge Sandile Ngcobo, a friend and colleague of the highly respected Langa at the Bar and in the Constitutional Court, and who also succeeded him as chief justice, paid tribute to Langa’s sense of “compassion’’ and his “deep respect for other views”.

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