Jacob Zuma's eulogy to Judge Msimang

President says media could learn a lot from the judicial system

Eulogy by President Jacob Zuma on the occasion of the special official funeral service of the Judge President of Kwazulu-Natal Division, Judge Herbert Qedusizi Msimang, Hilton College Sports Arena, Pietermaritzburg, April 16 2011

Mndeni wakwa-Msimang, izihlobo nabangani,
The Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Dr Zweli Mkhize and other Premiers present;
The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Mr Jeff Radebe;
The Chief Justice of the Republic, Justice Sandile Ngcobo;
Former Chief Justice Pius Lange;
Former KwaZulu Natal Judge President Vuka Tshabalala;
Esteemed Judges President of All Divisions;
All members of the South African Judiciary;
Honourable members of the Executive and Legislatures;
Ladies and Gentlemen;

We have come together to pay our respects and bid a fond farewell to an outstanding South African. 

We have gathered to mourn but also to celebrate the contribution of a jurist and a compatriot who was dedicated to his craft, to justice and to human rights. 

As the Executive arm of the State, we were truly saddened by the news that the Honourable Judge President Herbert Qedusizi Msimang had passed on.

We accept that all human beings are temporary sojourners on earth.

However, we cannot help but lament the fact that his tenure as the Judge President of the KwaZulu-Natal division was extremely short, and that we have been so untimely robbed of his wisdom and contribution.
His passing is a monumental loss, not only to his family and the judiciary, but also to all branches of the State and the people of our country.

Today we celebrate not only the Judge but the man and what he stood for. Society does not only expect legal practitioners and judicial officials to be "fit and proper" for their profession.

Members of the judiciary are also expected to conduct themselves in public in a manner that ensures that their integrity is not doubted.

Judge Msimang was an embodiment of this upright social standing. He endeared himself to many people for his humility as well as for his outstanding abilities as a legal professional. He endeared himself to many for his independence of mind and action. And he endeared himself to many as well because he was not only a brilliant jurist, but was also a well-rounded South African who has served the community in many capacities.

He participated in ensuring successful elections by being a Commissioner of the Independent Electoral Commission. He contributed to sports development by being a legal advisor to a local professional football team. He contributed to the promotion of quality health care as a member of the local Grey's Hospital Board and chaired the Board of Umngeni AIDS Centre.

Indeed he touched the lives of many people in different ways.

Esteemed members of the judiciary,
Ladies and gentlemen, 

Today, while mourning, we also acknowledge the achievements of our democracy which made Judge Msimang and all who believe in the rule of law proud of their country. The Constitution of the country states that the Republic of South Africa is founded on the values of human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms.

It is based on the values of the supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law. The Republic of South Africa is today a stable, functional and successful constitutional democracy, due to the promotion of these values and the correct interpretation of the laws of the land by members of our esteemed judiciary.

Our country boasts the freedom of the judiciary to interpret the law and to dispense justice without fear or favour. Indeed, a free and independent judiciary is one of the cornerstones of our democracy. It is one of the key features and achievements of the post-apartheid South Africa.

This is an important achievement, given that our country has survived colonial and apartheid justice systems, where people were jailed for merely stating their belief that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white. Many lost their lives because they believed that no government could justly claim authority unless it was based on the will of the people.

Our people are today free to express their views and seek relief from the courts, should they feel their rights are being violated. Our fond farewell to the Judge President reminds us to acknowledge this independence that he epitomized and believed in.

Today, in our sadness and pain at losing Judge Msimang, we also recall his passion for the promotion of the access to justice for all. While he was still an attorney, in cases where he saw the need, he was more than willing to provide pro bono legal representation.

In this way, he displayed a clear understanding of the need to promote access to justice for all. So passionate was he about promoting access to justice that I was not surprised to hear of his programme of reducing the backlogs of both criminal and civil cases in KwaZulu-Natal courts.

While his efforts could not be brought to their conclusion because of his untimely passing on, I am confident that his innovative ideas will be implemented to fulfill his dream. We are also confident that once fully implemented, this innovation will help to address the frustrations of many people who want access to justice. 

Secondly, due to the fact that we are bidding farewell to a diligent judge who was known for his intolerance of sloppy work, we support the leadership of our courts in their efforts to improve the output of our courts.

In this regard we wish to register our concerns about reserved judgments. We are aware that the highest echelons of the judiciary are promoting interventions to eradicate both the backlogs and to attend to the reserved judgments phenomenon. In this way, justice will neither be delayed nor denied.

It will be the best way to pay tribute to a man who believed so much in the rule of law and justice for all. 

Honourable Chief Justice of the Republic,
Ladies and gentlemen, 

As you are aware, the Constitution of the Republic guarantees the existence of the three branches of the State - the Executive, Judiciary and the Legislature. We have over the past 17 years been working together to make the three branches accessible to all citizens.

The challenge to make our courts user-friendly and more inviting still remains, and I know that the judiciary is also concerned about this matter. Instead of the Courts being seen as places where punishment is meted out, the pressure is on us to present these courts as places where civil disputes are solved, and where law abiding citizens are saved from criminal brutality.

We must promote the courts and the judiciary as crucial arbiters in disputes. They must be presented correctly as critical checks and balance mechanisms in the clashes that may result from the work of the other two branches of the State. Already the work of the three branches complements one another. 

Some of the pronouncements by our Courts redirect us to some of the shortcomings that we might have overlooked in the passing and the implementation of some of the laws. There have been a number of judgments where the legislature has been directed to review certain pieces of legislation, and calling for the service delivery departments to enhance delivery in others. These we appreciate as necessary interventions which serve to deepen our democracy. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

May I humbly urge, that as a way of paying homage to Judge Msimang, we seriously educate our people about those aspects of the law and justice which would make them fully appreciate the totality of democracy. We live in an environment where slander, rumour-mongering and trials by media dominate our public space.

In this regard, the promotion of the rule of evidence-based analysis, which is the operational doctrine of the courts, would be of huge benefit to South Africans. We need to raise awareness about the key judicial concepts such as innocence until proven guilty, about the need to listen to both sides of a dispute and about the right to appeal and also about the crucial role of the sub-judice rule.

The media, both print and electronic as well as the new social media platforms which are used by many, rich and poor, should be utilized to extend the knowledge about our judicial system far and wide.

Ladies and gentlemen, 

In paying homage to our Judge President, I wish to make a clarion call to our youth to consider careers in the legal and judicial fields. We trust that they will be inspired to follow in the footsteps of this gallant fighter for justice and human rights.

He was surely an outstanding role model. 

On this sad day, our thoughts are with the Chief Justice of the Republic and the entire judiciary, especially the KwaZulu-Natal division that he led.

Secondly, our hearts go out to the court officials as well as the administrative staff. They should not to despair at this loss, but must continue doing their jobs to the best of their abilities, as the Judge President would have wanted them to. 

On behalf of the people and Government of the Republic of South Africa, we extend our heartfelt condolences to the Msimang family and relatives.

Sithi lalani ngenxeba, akwehlanga lungehli. Sikhathazekile sonke, silahlekelwe sonke ileliqhawe lamaqhawe lesizwe ebelingumahluleli oqotho. 

Such is life. We are happy one moment, and sad later. But you will find the strength to cope with the impact of this gigantic loss. May the family find solace in the knowledge that this fine gentleman we are bidding farewell to, is leaving a sound legacy behind. His, was a life well lived. 

Lala Ngoxolo Thabizolo, Nonkosi, Muthwa!

Siyohlale sikukhumbula njalo! 

I thank you.

Issued by The Presidency, April 16 2011

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