National Assembly: Tuesday 1 November 2011
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
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
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
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.
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.
Contact: Mr Koos van der Merwe MP, 082 444