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Judges blast SACP over Chaskalson

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Arthur Chaskalson accepting his award for promoting human rights at the Mandela Awards for Health and Human Rights in 2007. Picture: Sophia Stander

Cape Town -

The suggestion that former chief justice Arthur Chaskalson was a member of the SA Communist Party was not true, eight of his ex-colleagues said on Wednesday.

Seven retired Constitutional Court judges and one retiring judge sent out a joint statement saying that Chaskalson, 81, who died at the start of the month, had no affiliations.

The statement was sent out by Pius Langa, Laurie Ackermann, Richard Goldstone, Johann Kriegler, Yvonne Mokgoro, Kate O'Regan, Albie Sachs and Zak Yacoob, whose retirement begins next year.

“We are dismayed that the integrity and candour of our former colleague, Justice Arthur Chaskalson, should be in question at this time,” they said.

“The posthumous assertion of this untruth damages not only Justice Chaskalson's peerless record of candour and integrity, but also the institution of the Constitutional Court.”

Following Chaskalson's death on December 1, the SACP sent out a statement conveying its condolences to his family and friends.

The statement said that it was “a lesser known fact” that Chaskalson was a member of the underground SACP in the 1960s.

“He represented the SACP at the Convention for a Democratic SA's negotiations in the early 1990s,” the statement read.

His former colleagues, however, disputed that he belonged to a political party.

The group said they and Chaskalson sat in on a recusal application brought in 1999 when the SA Rugby Football Union (Sarfu) and others challenged the appointment of a commission of inquiry into rugby by President Nelson Mandela.

An issue in the case was the political affiliations of members of the court and their relationships with the African National Congress (ANC) and its alliance partners.

“In a letter to Sarfu's attorneys, Justice Chaskalson stated that apart from membership of the Liberal Party during the 1950s, he had never been a member of any political party.

“The recusal judgment records his express statement that at no stage had there been ties between him and the ANC or related organisations.” - Sapa


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