Goldstone hangs up his robe
Constitutional Court Judge Richard Goldstone has mixed feelings about retiring from the court on Thursday.
“I have mixed feelings, but I love a new challenge,” he said after a ceremony at the court to mark his retirement. Goldstone is to spend the next year teaching at two New York universities.
During the ceremony Goldstone (64) said he was grateful for the privilege of having served on South Africa’s first Constitutional Court.
“I have had wonderful colleagues, wonderful friends ... [it has been] the highlight of my career, sitting as a member of this Constitutional Court.”
Goldstone served on the court Bench from its inception in 1994, although he spent the first three of those years working as a United Nations prosecutor at The Hague and in Rwanda.
“This court’s role will continue to be a crucial one, holding the balance between government and citizen and citizen and citizen,” he said.
Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson wished Goldstone and his wife Noleen well in the exciting times that lay ahead of them.
Delivering a message from Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Penuell Maduna, Chaskalson said: “[Maduna] has asked me to communicate to Justice Goldstone the government’s appreciation for his service to our country and in particular for the important role he played in the transition to democracy.”
The court was crowded with legal luminaries including Jeremy Gauntlett, SC, George Bizos, SC, and Jules Browde, SC.
Browde, speaking on behalf of the Johannesburg Bar and the Attorneys’ Association, said Goldstone would be missed at the Constitutional Court as he had been missed at the Appellate Division (now the Supreme Court of Appeal) and the Transvaal Provincial Division.
He also had praise for Noleen Goldstone.
“No man I know has had a better wife cum secretary cum travel agent,” he said to knowing smiles.
Browde also read letters from the National Association of Democratic Lawyers and the Legal Resources Centre, both of which mentioned that Goldstone’s move to education was heartening, and that his influence would be felt in South Africa for years to come.
Goldstone is to leave for New York in January to lecture at New York University’s Law School for the spring semester, and then at Manhattan’s Fordham University Law School.
“I am so pleased that one of the courses is Comparative Constitutional Law: The South African Experience,” he said. Apparently the course is already fully booked.
He is probably best known for his work from 1991 to 1994 when he headed the Commission into Political Violence and Intimidation.
“It uncovered evidence of deceit, torture and murder in the heart of the security establishment, which precipitated investigations into the notorious Vlakplaas unit. Justice Goldstone’s life was in danger and security guards were assigned to look after him and his family day and night,” Chaskalson said of the commission.
Goldstone is also known for his investigation into the death in police cells of Clayton Sithole, Zindzi Mandela’s partner and the father of her child. He also investigated the 1990 Sebokeng massacre, in which he found that of the 281 people shot, 127 had been shot from behind (12 died).
In 1994—in the same week as he was appointed as one of the first Constitutional Court judges—he was asked to serve as Chief Prosecutor of the UN international criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia.
Goldstone went on to prosecute for the UN on the massacres in Rwanda and, between 1999 and 2001 he was the chairperson of the International Independent Inquiry on Kosovo. In December 2001 he was appointed chairperson of the International Task Force on Terrorism established by the International Bar Association.
Goldstone accepted his first UN position after an undertaking that his position on South Africa’s Constitutional Court Bench was secure.
Browde described Goldstone’s rise among the ranks of South Africa’s legal fraternity as meteoric, and said there was no longer any danger of the head of the Bar Council—as such a person did just after Goldstone joined in 1963—saying he did not agree “with that fellow Goldfinger.”
Goldstone has two married daughters, Glenda and Nicole, and four grandsons.—Sapa