Langa hailed as 'inspirational' at funeral

Former chief justice Pius Langa. (Paul Botes)

Former chief justice Pius Langa. (Paul Botes)

Langa's career path, from factory worker to achieving a position at one of the highest offices in the country, was a story of human resilience, faith and determination, former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo said on Saturday. "This journey shaped and defined Langa," he said. 

Ngcobo described Langa as a man committed to human dignity and respect.

He was speaking at Langa's funeral at Durban's city hall.

Langa was a man of compassion, fairness and courage, with a great command of the law, Ngcobo said. Langa's judicial intelligence was displayed in his work as a chief justice, he said.

Langa had a deep respect for colleagues who held different views.
"These days, as our nation debates the criteria for judges and positions in high office, we should take a moment and look at what Langa had to offer," Ngcobo said.

The fact that Langa was asked to chair a number of committees indicated his deep commitment to the rule of law and unquestionable integrity, he said.

Langa was a committed servant of the people, President Jacob Zuma said on Saturday.

"We have lost a patriot, a freedom fighter and an accomplished jurist who dedicated his life to making South Africa a better place for all, especially the poor and downtrodden," Zuma said at Langa's funeral service.

He described Langa as a man who was passionate about promoting human rights and dignity. He did this to ensure that his children and their children lived in a better South Africa.

"In his own account, the Constitution of the Republic would best serve its purpose when it remained a tool to heal the wounds of the past and guide us to a better future," Zuma said.

"He argued that transformation would be meaningless unless it addressed two aspects, the unequal social and economic relations in society."

He said Langa was highly successful in his career and could easily have chosen to become a professional lawyer and stayed away from politics and the struggle for freedom. "He put his legal expertise to good use, to rid this country of institutionalised racism and apartheid colonialism," Zuma said.

Langa had been concerned about the levels of poverty and inequality in the country. "Through his speeches and judgments, he sought to achieve a reconstruction of the state and society, including a redistribution of power and resources along equality lines," Zuma said.

"In his memory, we should all recommit ourselves to work harder in fighting poverty, inequality and unemployment, to create the type of society that he dedicated his life to building, as a young activist up to his retirement."

Langa was a generous man, his daughter Phumzile Langa said at his funeral in Durban on Saturday morning. "He loved each and every one of us. We were blessed to have him," Phumzile Langa said.

She described her father as a private man who loved to dance and sing. "He was the one we ran to since our mother passed away. We felt safe with him. He was the one who loved us."

She said she was thankful that God had blessed the family with him.

 He died last Wednesday at the age of 74 and had been in hospital for about a month due to a long illness. He retired in 2009 and went on to chair the Press Freedom Commission, which looked into the regulation of the print media in South Africa.

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