Friends, colleagues and civic leaders saluted KwaZulu-Natal Judge President, Chiman Patel, at a Hindu thanksgiving ceremony held in his honour in Durban on Sunday.
Speaking at the Havan ceremony, hosted by Arya Samaj of South Africa at the Carlisle Street Vedic Temple, Judge Dhaya Pillay said Patel had risen above the racist invective that had clouded his appointment to the post last year.
“Although his position was contested in an ugly way, with racist remarks that he would never understand the plight of black South Africans, he will do a great job,” Pillay said.
Pillay was referring to remarks made by Judge Isaac Madondo, who said during Judicial Service Commission interviews of candidates for the post of KwaZulu-Natal judge president that the job should not go to an Indian because “… we still have things to address; imbalances, all kinds of things which need more insight, which a person who is not (a black) African cannot be privy to.
“We were oppressed, but not in the same way,” he added, and backed his comment by saying Indian lawyers were given more opportunities historically than their black counterparts.
Patel was later named KZN judge president.
Pillay said having the full support of all staff worked to the advantage of any leader, and Patel certainly had this. “He is a living example that we can all contribute to making South Africa better in our way.”
Havan is performed to ask God for wisdom, blessings as well as guidance.
Patel’s childhood friend, Ashwin Trikamjee, an attorney and president of the SA Hindu Maha Sabha, said he grew up with Patel in Victoria Street.
Trikamjee was certain that Patel would make an excellent judge president. “In South Africa there is a word we all know like the back of our hands. We hear and read about corruption every day because it is everywhere. I am pleased and honoured to have known a man who is the opposite of this word,” he said. Patel was described as a principled and humble individual, who had made sacrifices for the community.
Also present at the ceremony, and supper later, was eThekwini municipality speaker, Logie Naidoo, Ela Gandhi and Diakonia’s Paddy Kearney. “I’m humbled and privileged to be honoured by the Arya Samaj South Africa. As judge president I hope I live up to my commitment and I am fortunate to have a team of judges who will help me do so,” Patel said.