Farewell To Judge Ngcobo & Welcome To Judge Mogoeng
Speech By Mr JH Van Der Merwe MP


National Assembly:  Tuesday 1 November 2011


Mr Speaker,


It was a mere two years ago when we said good bye to Chief Justice Langa and welcomed Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo. In saying goodbye to Judge Ngobo today, I pay tribute not only to a brilliant lawyer, but also as an outstanding manager of the Judiciary. I have so far served on the Judicial Service Commission under five Chief Justices and I rate Judge Ngcobo very highly. He was a patient, wise and outstanding Judge. I wanted to say more good things about Judge Ngcobo, but I am a bit reluctant because I lost a big case in the Constitutional Court where Judge Ngcobo wrote the judgement.


That only proves that if you have two lawyers you run the risk of getting three different legal opinions.


In welcoming Chief Justice Mogoeng, I need not remind him that I voted against him becoming the Chief Justice. But after he had received the majority vote, I congratulated him on his election, as I am a democrat. I also assured him of my loyalty and that I will respect and support him. Both Chief Judges Ngcobo and Mogoeng do not fall in the same category as the former Chief Justice of England, one George Jeffreys. He heard a case following the Monmouth rebellion in 1685 and sentenced 200 people to death and 800 to become slaves abroad. Talking about the death sentence. I am regularly reminded that the first white woman to be hanged in South Africa was a Mrs Van der Merwe.


Mr Speaker,


I wish to raise some very serious legal issues. Firstly I wish to say to the new Chief Justice that as Chief Justice, he is the custodian of the Constitution, which is a massive responsibility. Because our democracy is squarely based on the Constitution. The Chief Justice must play a leading role in protecting the independence of the Judiciary. He must at all times ensure that all judges execute their responsibilities without fear, favour or prejudice. Judges are to be true only to the Constitution and their consciences. A Chief Justice is not the servant of political party, but serves the country and all its peoples.


Mr Speaker,


The second issue I wish to raise, is the future of South African Law. Our legal system is based on Roman, Roman-Dutch and English Law and law which we have created ourselves.  


But we live in Africa. We are all Africans.


I am therefore concerned that not enough in depth research is being done in respect of African Law. Indigenous law. The law of Ubunthu. The law of our traditional communities. I plead today with the new Chief Justice to seriously tackle the many other challenges facing our judiciary and to publish proposals on how to improve our justice system. The challenge of language is but one example. Litigants are entitled to the use of their mother tongue. How are we solving this problem? Access to our Courts is another huge challenge. The vast majority of our people do not have the financial means to go to court. Overcrowding in prisons is a terrible problem. So is the delay is getting trial dates. Some litigants wait for two years to have their cases heard. And long outstanding judgements. We need continuous high level training of our judges and magistrates. There are many new legal developments and in particular new Laws made by this Parliament. One example is the complicated new Companies Law. Judges and magistrates need to be fully briefed.


I can add many more examples of challenges facing our legal system.


My serious and urgent plea to Chief Justice Mogoeng is to dedicate special time and intellectual effort to lead the judiciary from the front to continuously study and publish proposed possible solutions. To arrange more justice seminars and debates about legal challenges. 


Justice Ngcobo, your task, even in retirement, is to strengthen our judiciary in devoting quality time to identifying solutions for our judicial challenges. You have the intellectual capacity and the experience to do that. 


Mr Speaker,


We say goodbye to Judge Ngcobo today with a tear or two in the eye. We welcome Chief Justice Mogoeng with high expectations. We pray that he will be successful.


Mhloniswa Ngcobo, hamba ghahle, baba.


Julle moet mooi loop.


Baie dankie.


Contact: Mr Koos van der Merwe MP, 082 444 4944.