Former chief justice Pius Langa was a committed servant of the people, President Jacob Zuma has said.
“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 today at Langa’s funeral service in Durban City Hall.
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 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 to 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.” Former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo described Langa as an inspirational man.
Langa’s career path, from being a factory worker to achieving one of the highest offices in the country, was a story of human resilience, faith and determination, Ngcobo said. He was a man committed to human dignity and respect as well as a man of compassion, fairness and courage, with a great command of the law.
“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’s daughter, Phumzile, said her father was a generous man. “He loved each and every one of us. We were blessed to have him,” she 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 God had blessed the family with him. Hundreds of people gathered at the hall to pay their last respects to Langa.
He died last Wednesday at the age of 74. He 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 regulation of print media in South Africa.
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