Preserving the rule of law in times of political crisis

I remember Arthur Chaskalson. The generosity of his spirit. The depth of his heart. The beauty of his soul. The magnificence of his brain. I remember his judgment, even though he was never judgmental. I remember his own life as a life of values. Yet he saw the value of each person. I remember the elder, the president of the constitutional court, the chief justice of South Africa. But he was somehow everybody’s equal. A man of deep thought. Even deeper reflection.  Ultimately, however, he was moved to action by emotions. Empathy.  Love. Compassion. Generosity. Humility. He had boundless humanity. These were not just his feelings. They were his actions, throughout his life. 

For weeks towards the end of 2012 I had believed that Arthur would probably not survive his illness, which I was told was severe.  I had reconciled with the inevitability of his death.  A bit premature, I thought. But for a man who had given so much, to so many, for such a long time, perhaps a respite from life itself was warranted. On 1 December 2012 when Mathew Chaskalson called to tell me of Arthur’s death. I was grief-stricken. It was the same feeling of losing a close relative. Maybe of losing a father, or a grandfather. All too sudden.  All too unexpected. All too painful. Perhaps for many of us, Arthur’s passing was tied to the role that he played in our lives, personally and professionally.  Maybe we did not appreciate it when he was alive.  But we felt it upon his demise.

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Tembeka Ngcukaitobi
Adv Tembeka Ngcukaitobi is a South African lawyer, public speaker, author and political activist. He is a member of the South African Law Reform Commission.

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