/ 3 December 2012

SA mourns former chief justice Arthur Chaskalson

Arthur Chaskalson
Arthur Chaskalson

The ANC said Chaskalson's death left a void in the legal fraternity.

"South Africa has lost a sterling and outstanding man who had an immeasurable impact to the country's constitutional democracy and the post apartheid jurisprudence," said ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu.

He said Chaskalson had served the country selflessly as the chief justice and as the president of the Constitutional Court.

"Judge Chaskalson played a pivotal role in opposing apartheid laws and their manifestations," said Mthembu.

Chaskalson died at the age of 81 in Johannesburg on Saturday, reportedly of leukaemia.

He was the first president of the Constitutional court and was chief justice from November 2001 until he retired in 2005.

In 2002, he was awarded the Order of the Baobab, one of the highest accolades the government can give to a South African citizen.

He would be buried on Monday in a private, but special official funeral at Westpark cemetery, in Johannesburg. It would be attended by President Jacob Zuma, and would be followed at a later date by an official memorial service.

The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) said Chaskalson had used his great legal skills to advance the struggle for freedom and democracy.

"Chaskalson will always be remembered and honoured as one of the key role-players in the construction of our world-renowned constitutional dispensation, said Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven.

He said Chaskalson would also be remembered for his leadership in the Constitutional Court, which had consistently protected and extended the country's democratic rights.

"We owe it to his memory to make sure that we never undermine the democratic foundations he laid down, in his lifelong commitment to promote social justice and human rights," said Craven.

The Black Lawyers' Association (BLA) said the role Chaskalson played in shaping the country's jurisprudence under the constitutional dispensation was well archived, preserved and documented throughout the world.

BLA president Busani Mabunda said South African citizens had a duty to closely scrutinise Chaskalson's contributions towards sticky and thorny issues.

"It will, in his legacy and in remembrance of him, be pivotal to apply our minds and digest his views so as to craft the proper destiny of this country," said Mabunda.

The SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) said Chaskalson had brought honour to the legal profession and to the Bench, and to the Jewish community with which he always identified.

"He epitomised the qualities of integrity, compassion and an unbending commitment to justice for all," said SAJBD spokesman David Saks.

He said Chaskalson's life and example would serve as an ongoing source of inspiration for the country and its people. – Sapa