Address of the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, at the
Ceremony to mark the Retirement of Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson and the Assumption
of Office of Chief Justice Pius Langa and Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke:
Houses of Parliament, Cape Town: June 10, 2005.
of the National Council of Provinces,
Deputy Speaker, Deputy Chairperson and
the other Presiding Officers,
Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice,
Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson,
Leaders of our political
Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Honourable Members of
Fellow South Africans:
When I spoke from this podium
on February 11, to deliver the annual State of the Nation Address, I announced
that with effect from June 1st, Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson would retire from
the bench. I said then that, "I trust that later this year, Parliament will
give all of us an opportunity to bid this giant among the architects of our democracy
the fitting farewell that the constraints of time today prohibit."
would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Presiding Officers, the political
leaders and the Honourable Members for responding to that request, which has given
us the possibility to convene here today in what I am certain will, up to its
conclusion, be a dignified ceremony that will communicate the respect of our people
for our judiciary and the Judges we are privileged to honour today.
approached the day of his assumption of office, I requested the then Chief Justice-elect
to advise me about the formal ceremony we would have to conduct, publicly to signal
the changing of the guard at the apex of our judicial system. It transpired that
nothing existed in our State Protocols providing for such a ceremony.
is therefore the first time in the history of our country that we have convened
as we have today. I would like to thank the Speaker of the National Assembly,
the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, their Deputies, the leaders
of the political parties, the Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice, the Minister
and Deputy Minister of Justice, the Chief of State Protocol, the Director General
in the Presidency and his staff for everything they have done to design today's
proceedings, which set a precedent about what should happen in future when our
country honours an outgoing Chief Justice and welcomes his or her successor.
ceremony has been designed in such a way that it respects both the separation
of powers that is entrenched in our Constitution, relating to the legislature,
the executive and the judiciary, as well as cooperation among these centres of
state power, without which our body politic would cease to exist. In this latter
eventuality, ineluctably, mere anarchy would be loosed upon our world.
believe that it is right and proper that we should convene as we have done today,
bringing together the national legislature, the national executive and the judiciary
to salute our compatriots who have served and will serve at the apex of the leadership
of our judicial system.
This marks the culmination of a process of the appointment
of the presiding judges of the Constitutional Court and the judiciary, which involves
the three branches of our system of governance. It is therefore fitting that we
should come together, as we have done today in the Houses of Parliament, finally
to confirm to all our people our confidence in the fellow South Africans who had,
and will have, the responsibility to lead our judiciary.
In this regard,
speaking as the President of the Republic and the sponsor of the candidatures
of our Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice, I would like to convey my profound
gratitude to the Judicial Service Commission and the leaders of the political
parties represented in our National Parliament, for their unanimous agreement
that Justice Pius Langa and Justice Dikgang Moseneke should serve as our Chief
and Deputy Chief Justices, respectively.
We meet here today to bid farewell
to the outgoing Chief Justice, the Hon Arthur Chaskalson, and to welcome the new
leadership of our judiciary, Chief Justice Pius Langa and Deputy Chief Justice
In paying tribute to our recently retired Chief Justice,
we draw inspiration from the Preamble to our Constitution, which states that:
the people of South Africa,
Respect those who have worked hard to build
and develop our country: and
"Believe that South Africa belongs to
all who live in it, united in our diversity."
Long before assuming
the office of Chief Justice of South Africa, Arthur Chaskalson worked hard to
lay the foundation for a South Africa that would truly belong to all who live
in it, united in our diversity.
He dedicated his professional life to the
defence of those who were regarded as sub-human, and accordingly treated as such
by the legal system that prevailed then. He and his colleagues worked tirelessly,
using the laws of the day, however deficient, to try to protect the rights of
the poor and oppressed.
Speaking about the significance of the period following
the end of the Second World War, a period when, according to him, "humanity
appeared to seek a new mutation,
a humanity that had come so perilously
close to its own annihilation", our former Chief Justice, Ismail Mohamed,
"A defensible and durable civilisation can only sustain
itself legitimately and effectively if it recognises the inherent dignity of every
member of the human family".
Arthur Chaskalson's lifelong work is a
testimony to his belief in the inherent dignity of all people.
In the past
eleven years of our democracy, the judiciary has not shunned its role to become
part of the construction of a South Africa that recognises the inherent dignity
of all its citizens.
We too are citizens of a country that came "perilously
close to its own annihilation".
It was through the efforts of progressive
lawyers such as Arthur Chaskalson, acting together with all other progressive
forces in our country, that we were able to pull ourselves away from the abyss.
Because of his refusal to give up when some of the best among us lost hope
in the promise of a better future, he served as one of the experts that assisted
in drafting our Constitution.
After assuming the office of the President
of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, Arthur Chaskalson worked with distinction
to restore the credibility of a judiciary that had been totally discredited in
the eyes of the majority, during the apartheid years.
He steered the judiciary
at a time when it was grappling with defining its proper role in a democracy,
a matter that we will continue to engage as our democracy matures.
about this matter in April 2000, in an address on the role of the judiciary in
a democratic state, Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella, a judge of the Court of
Appeal of Ontario, Canada, referred to the "historically erroneous premise
that judicial institutions do not form part of the democratic framework
went on to say that:
"While all branches of government are responsible
for the delivery of justice
the judiciary has a different relationship with
the public. It is accountable less to the public's opinions and more to the public
interest. This means that the occasional judgement will collide with some public
expectations, which will, inevitably, create controversy. But judgements that
are controversial are not thereby illegitimate or undemocratic; they are, in fact,
democracy at work".
What Arthur Chaskalson did during his years as
a fighter for liberation and an architect of the new South Africa constituted
the democracy at work of which Justice Abella spoke.
On June 1, 2005, acting
in terms of the Constitution, I appointed Justice Pius Langa as the successor
to Arthur Chaskalson. On the same date, I also appointed Justice Moseneke as the
Deputy Chief Justice.
I take this opportunity to wish them well as they
lead the judiciary during this, the Second Decade of our freedom, confident that
they will accomplish their mission with distinction.
We face continuing
challenges with relation to the judiciary, principal among them being its transformation.
Among others, gender disparity within our judicial ranks remains a matter of concern.
The issue of the role of the judiciary in a constitutional state with a
history such as ours also continues to pose a challenge.
I believe that
the new leaders of our judiciary will help us successfully to respond to these
challenges, as well as continue to create the space for these and other matters
to be debated, confident that, in the words of former Chief Justice Mahomed,
viable and credible constitutional culture evolves most effectively within the
crucible of vigorous intellectual combat and even moral examination (of judicial
The debate about the role of the judiciary in South Africa
should never be portrayed as an intention or desire to interfere in any manner
with its independence. It is not. Happily, I know that the leadership of our judiciary
agrees with us in this regard.
Among other things, the struggle we waged,
with Justices Chaskalson, Langa and Moseneke as our fellow combatants, was precisely
about the convergence of the concepts of the law and justice, and therefore the
need for an independent judiciary that would ensure that law and justice would
not stand in opposition to each other, as they did in our country for many centuries.
am honoured to extend to Justice Arthur Chaskalson, an Esteemed Member of the
Order of the Baobab, the heartfelt thanks of our diverse and united nation for
everything he has done to restore to all our people their freedom, dignity, and
esteem among the peoples of the world.
On behalf of our nation, I wish him
and his dear wife, happiness, long life, and success in their future endeavours.
I trust that the nation will still have the privilege to access their wisdom and
experience as we continue our journey towards the formation of the South African,
African and world society to which they dedicated their lives.
I thank him,
Chief Justice Pius Langa, Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, their spouses,
and all other judges and eminent guests present in the House today for the privilege
they have accorded all of us to salute them, to thank them, to wish them well
during this unique ceremony in the history of our country.
I extend the
nation's best wishes and message of confidence to them all.
I thank you.