Watch the Sitholes every Thursday at 17h30 on e.tv
Pretoria - Flags are being flown at half-mast on Monday as former chief justice Arthur Chaskalson is laid to rest at Westpark Cemetery in Joburg.
President Jacob Zuma has declared Chaskalson’s funeral a special official funeral. Chaskalson died, aged 81, on Saturday. He had been fighting leukaemia.
The president will attend the private funeral, which will take place at noon. National flags will fly at half-mast from on Monday until Friday.
Chaskalson epitomised a generation of moral leaders who guided South Africa from apartheid to democracy, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said. “Chief Justice Chaskalson was a human rights lawyer who defended the brave and the oppressed, including uTata Nelson Mandela.
“He helped craft South Africa’s extraordinary new constitution and set up a new Constitutional Court, which he led before being appointed chief justice,” Tutu said.
“In the context of a lifetime of such massive achievement, the formation of the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) in 1979 must rank among his greatest contributions. Many South African NGOs of the 1970s and 1980s have closed their doors, but not the LRC. If anything, the value of the LRC - which these days takes on precedent-setting constitutional cases that promote human rights and socio-economic development - has increased.”
Tutu said former chief justice Chaskalson represented integrity, selflessness and righteousness “in a most unassuming and scholarly manner”.
Tutu recalled the then advocate asking him, when he was at the SA Council of Churches during the apartheid era, to plead in mitigation of sentence for men Chaskalson was defending in the Supreme Court in Pretoria on terrorism charges. “He asked me to stress the feeling of frustration and anger in the townships, and convince the court not to impose the death penalty. I was just getting into my stride when the judge interrupted to say he did not intend to sentence the young men to death.
“It was most unusual for a judge to pronounce on sentence at that point in proceedings - perhaps he hoped it might shut me up.
“Among the accused was Tokyo Sexwale. Arthur, of course, took none of the credit,” Tutu said.
Sending his condolences to late chief justice Chaskalson’s wife, Lorraine, and the couple’s sons, Matthew and Jerome, and their families, Tutu said: “Thank you for sharing Arthur.
“He enriched us all.”
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said Chaskalson had played a prominent role in the establishment of the LRC, and called him a fine human being, a good teacher and a man who was known the “world over as a great leader and champion of human rights”.
The Law Society of South Africa remembered Chaskalson for the great contribution he had made to South Africa’s constitutional jurisprudence after 1994. “Justice Chaskalson was one of the courageous few who spoke out bravely and devoted his time and energy to challenging apartheid legislation,” said law society co-chairmen Krish Govender and Jan Stemmett.
The DA called Chaskalson one of the giants of the anti-apartheid Struggle. “South Africa is immensely enriched by the service he gave,” the party said.