Zuma praises Langa for his "outstanding" service

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma has paid tribute to the outgoing Chief Justice Pius Langa in a joint sitting of both houses of Parliament on Wednesday.

He said Justice Langa had served South Africa in an "outstanding and remarkable manner", while members of the opposition praised Langa for his contribution to the country.

Addressing a joint sitting of the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces (NCOP) Zuma said Langa played a vital part in developing judicial law and jurisprudence in the country.

"For many years he has been a champion for people's rights," said Zuma, who pointed out that the outgoing Chief Justice's clients were the underpriviledged, the marginalised and those that stood against apartheid.

The judiciary would remain in "good hands" with the appointment of the new Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo, he said.

Zuma said the country still faced a number of challenges in the access of justice which limited the achievement of human rights and dignity for all.

He added that the supremacy of the Constitution and rule of law should prevail "at all times".

"I wish Justice Langa a well and rested retirement and I wish Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo a successful and productive tenure as head of our judiciary," he said.

Addressing the joint sitting, Langa thanked the people of South Africa for giving him the opportunity to serve the country in the Constitutional Court for the past 15 years.

Langa said he was honoured to see South Africa emerge from apartheid to join the "free nations of the world" and to then see the organs of justice survive the first years of democracy.

He said he had enjoyed a "wonderful relationship" with all the ministers of justices and said current Minister of Justice Jeff Radebe had been a "tower of strength" for him.

However, there was a still a long way to go to transforming South Africa, said Langa, who added that as long as poverty existed government's job was not done.

Langa also placed his faith in Justice Ngcobo, saying he had no doubt that he would "prove equal to the challenges" that lay ahead.

In his address, the country's fifth Chief Justice, Ngcobo, said he was privileged to receive the welcome he did from the nation.

Justice Ngcobo said many South Africans could still not access justice because of the cost of legal fees, while delays in the court system also put a limit on justice.

He asserted the need for the justice system to retain their independence so that citizens could maintain their confidence in the law.

NCOP chairman Mninwa Mahlangu also praised outgoing Constitutional Court judges Albie Sachs, Kate O'Reagon and Yvonne Mokgoro.

"These judges have written the history of our nation through transforming jurisprudence," he said.

Members of the opposition praised Langa, a former t-shirt maker who rose from serving as a court messenger to head the highest court in the land in 2005.

Zuma also thanked those nations at the UN that had backed South Africa's call for a world day to honour former president Nelson Mandela.

The United Nations has voted to dedicate 18 July from next year onwards as Nelson Mandela International Day.