Justice Bess Nkabinde hangs up ConCourt robes after 12 years

2017-12-07 20:57
Justice Bess Nkabinde is hanging up her Constitutional Court robe.

Justice Bess Nkabinde is hanging up her Constitutional Court robe.

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Johannesburg - Justice Bess Nkabinde received a fitting farewell during a special sitting for her retirement at the Constitutional Court on Thursday.

While the distinguished jurist has decided to hang up her Constitutional Court robes, she said she hoped to continue contributing towards a better South Africa.

Shortly after delivering her last judgment on a labour-related matter, several legal heavyweights representing various arms of the legal fraternity lauded Nkabinde for being an exemplary jurist.

Paying tribute to her, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said Nkabinde had made a significant contribution during her judicial career and handed down judgments that had provided benefit to large sections of society.

Serving SA a very special way

He added: "We are grateful to Justice Nkabinde for her contribution. We are grateful to her as our colleague. I speak for all of my colleagues when I say, we are going to miss her and it is going to be difficult to imagine this place without her."

Zondo said judges would miss Nkabinde at their meetings, as well as her contributions and the way that she cared for everyone.

"She would enquire about our children. She is a wonderful person…You have served this country in a very special way. We are grateful to you and wish you everything of the best."

A beacon of hope

Speaking on behalf of Advocates for Transformation, Anthea Platt SC, said Nkabinde had been a beacon of hope, particularly for women of colour.

"You, Justice Nkabinde, and other justices have carved a path that shines for all of us, especially women of colour."

National Association of Democratic Lawyers' Mfana Gwala said he hoped that Nkabinde would continue to work for the people of South Africa.

The Black Lawyers Association's Lutendo Sigogo added: "Justice Nkabinde is living proof to all of us and the world over that hard work and dedication to the cause of justice is what distinguishes great personalities from the rest."

                               Justice Bess Nkabinde (centre) in the Constitutional Court.

Sigogo said Nkabinde transmitted beyond race and gender.

Craig Watt-Pringle SC of the General Council of the Bar enlisted the help of Nkabinde's current and former clerks to assist him to formulate his tribute.

Her colleagues described her as "motherly and someone who always lent an ear".

Watt-Pringle said he was told that Nkabinde always treated everyone equally, from cleaners to judges.

'Without fear or favour or prejudice'

The National Prosecuting Authority's Director of Public Prosecutions in Gauteng, Andrew Chauke, said the organisation was indebted to Nkabinde for her counsel and guidance.

"We have been enriched to do our work without fear or favour or prejudice..."

In a moving tribute, the chairperson of Parliament's National Council of Provinces, Thandi Modise, said Nkabinde was always patient and calm.

"We admire you ma'am because in many instances you have actually come out to say: 'I am principled and I will live by those principles.' In many instances, we do not do that. We sacrifice ourselves and what we believe in because we are occupying certain positions."

Modise said Nkabinde's judgments had made many people's lives better.

Doing more for victims of rape

Modise also praised Nkabinde for her judgment in the case of Fanuel Sitakeni Masiya vs Director of Public Prosecutions.

"As the legislative arm, this judgment was very progressive. To those of us who went through rapes when we were young, this judgment pushed us to do more, to begin to do more for victims of rape, whether they were female or male." Modise said.

Justice Nkabinde thanked her family, colleagues, clerks, communities and everyone who had touched her in one way or another.

"As you grow up in a village, you are the child of the community. You are raised by everybody there. They contribute to your welfare, they nurture you, they love you and punish you when you are out of order."

An undeniable privilege

Nkabinde said everyone who was in attendance had contributed to the person that she was today. 

She said the end of this year marks 12 years for her at the Constitutional Court.

It also marks her 18 years as a judge, which includes positions at the High Court, Labour Court, Labour Appeal Court, Supreme Court of Appeal and Constitutional Court. 

She also had the opportunity to be acting deputy chief justice for 11 months and acting chief justice for one month.

"The opportunities to serve our people in different capacities have undeniably been a privilege…all of this was through God's grace and blessing," she said.

Read more on:    constitutional court  |  bess nkabinde

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