Durban - Hilary Squires, the judge who sentenced Schabir Shaik to 15 years' imprisonment for corruption, died on Monday.
He died of heart failure at his Westville home a few days before his 87th birthday.
Other prominent matters the judge presided over included Xerxes Nursingh, who killed his mother and grandparents in 1994.
When Squires acquitted Nursingh on the basis of a psychological disorder, it became a precedent-setting decision in that it was the country’s first successful plea for temporary insanity.
He also handled the Shobashobane massacre in Port Shepstone, on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast, which related to the death of 18 ANC supporters on Christmas Day in 1995.
After the Shaik matter in 2004, Squires was widely misquoted in the media as saying there had been a “generally corrupt relationship” between Shaik and former deputy president Jacob Zuma. Squires denied the utterance and set the record straight by writing to one such publication.
An extract read: “If you have never read the judgment delivered in that case, may I suggest that you do so.
“I can find no such mention of my having made any such comment.
“If you have already read the judgment, and in it this phrase ‘a generally corrupt relationship,’ occurs, I would be grateful if you would advise me of the page and line number in which the statement appears.”
In the aftermath, some made derogatory comments and even labelled him a racist.
Shaik, after being told of the judge’s death yesterday, said he needed time to reflect before commenting.
Former KwaZulu-Natal Judge President Vuka Tshabalala, who appointed Squires to the Shaik matter, said in all their interactions over the years, “I never found him to be a racist”.
“I appointed him to that matter because I thought he would be fair and give a proper decision and I was satisfied with his handling of the matter.
Judge Tshabalala regarded Squires to be a “good man”.
“He supported me when other judges said I was too young and inexperienced for the position,” he recalled.
Another former KwaZulu-Natal Judge President, Chiman Patel, said: “We respected judge Squires. He crafted his judgments with absolute professionalism and I enjoyed his congenial nature and dry sense of humour.”
Sitting Constitutional Court judge Leona Theron said Squires was a gentleman on and off the bench.
“I honour Judge Squires as a mentor, colleague and friend. He truly embraced transformation and wanted to see myself and other ‘transformation judges’, succeed on the bench.
“He was the first judge who invited me to assess with him while I was practising as an advocate,” said Judge Theron, who handled Squires’s retirement function.
Theron said she considered the notebook with annotations about various legal principles he handed her as one of her prized possessions.
“It was a book he had for many years, his ‘bible’ in a way.
“My last and endearing memory is visiting him at his home and seeing the items of furniture he had made,” she said.
Squires’ son-in-law, Ian Cox said the judge, in retirement, took up woodwork and his other hobbies which included cultivating orchids and the study of birds.
Squires was born to missionary parents living in Transkei, attended Bishops School in Cape Town, where he became head boy.
“He believed in strong discipline, but abhorred bullying.
“And so, to paraphrase that old boy, those qualities made the good and fair man we remember today,” said Cox.
Squires was drawn to Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) by his wife Coralie, where he started his legal career as a clerk to the Chief Justice in 1956.
Coralie, his wife for more than 60 years, was the first woman to qualify as a civil engineer in Southern Africa.
Squires was admitted to the bar as an advocate and became senior counsel. While still practising law, he entered parliament in 1971 and became Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith’s justice minister and later the defence and combined operations minister.
By the time he quit politics, he was appointed to the Rhodesian bench.
He relocated to South Africa in 1984 and was articled at law firm Cox Yeats, before joining the Durban Bar.
Squires was appointed to the bench in 1988.
Cox said Coralie played a pivotal role in Squires’ life.
“When things went wrong you called in Coralie and she would fix it.
“Her death in June last year hit Hilary very hard.
“Their marriage was a partnership that went back to their time at university and he found life very difficult without her.
“He soldiered on without complaint but it was not much fun.
“Hence his oft-repeated comment ‘old age is not for sissies’,” said Cox.
Squires will be laid to rest on Wednesday. He is survived by daughter Lindsey, son Steven and four grandchildren.