Pius Langa: a man who knew the meaning of transformation

Former South African Chief Justice Pius Langa passed away earlier this week at the age of 74. This measured man, one who never seemed flustered and always seemed to have time to reflect before speaking, was both a good person and a brilliant jurist. His many meticulously crafted judgments leave behind a fitting memorial to his life and work. But it was his famous 2006 speech on the nature of “Transformative Constitutionalism” for which he might very well become best remembered. When a famous person passes away in South Africa, it is customary to laud the deceased and to gloss over the more unsavoury aspects of his or her personality or his or her life and work. Even scoundrels like the late PW Botha and the late Hansie Cronje were lauded by many after their deaths; lauded for qualities it would be difficult (if not impossible) to believe they ever possessed. In an attempt to respect the deceased and his or her family, the harsh truth is discarded in favour of soothing fiction.

This problem does not arise in the case of the late Chief Justice, Pius Langa. He was a soft spoken, even quiet, man; one who had to leave school at the age of 14 to earn a living to help support his family, but who later completed his matric and then his various law degrees with the help of his brilliant mind, iron discipline, hard work and his tenacity.

After joining the Durban Bar, he gravitated towards political cases and became deeply involved in the struggle for democracy, helping to found the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (and becoming its President in 1988), and serving in the United Democratic Front. He was also involved as a legal advisor for the ANC during the CODESA negotiating process.

A fact that few people might be aware of is that Langa spoke just about every language and dialect spoken in South Africa (according to former Constitutional Court Justice Johan Kriegler). He was a true polyglot ...

Zum vollständigen Artikel

Cookies helfen bei der Bereitstellung unserer Dienste. Durch die Nutzung erklären Sie sich mit der Cookie-Setzung einverstanden. Mehr OK