Former Chief Justice Pius Langa has died at the age of 74. His death was announced by his brother on Wednesday morning. Justice Langa died at the Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg. He was in hospital for about a month until his death in the early hours of Wednesday.
Before launching his legal career, Langa was employed at a shirt factory. He left the factory for the Department of Justice where he started out as a messenger and then became an interpreter. His hard-work and determination saw him obtain his B Juris in 1973 and his LLB degree three years later.
Justice Pius Langa has a distinguished legacy in the justice system. He was an integral part of the African National Congress Constitutional Committee which drafted the Bill of Rights. Former President Nelson Mandela appointed him to the bench in 1994 and eleven years later in 2005, former President Thabo Mbeki declared Justice Pius Langa as the Chief Justice of South Africa. He retired four years later.
Known as an eager academic, Justice Langa has been awarded many qualifications and honorary degrees from esteemed institutes of higher education across the globe. These include Doctor of Law degrees from University of Cape Town, UNISA, the National University of Ireland and the famous Yale University in the US.
President Jacob Zuma was sworn in as the president of the republic by Justice Pius Langa in 2009. The president was sad to hear of the passing of one of the “best legal minds, a dedicated human rights jurist and a veteran struggle activist”. President Zuma said: “On behalf of government and the people of South Africa, we wish to convey our deepest condolences. May his soul rest in peace.”
Messages of condolences have been coming in from all corners. A colleague in the Department of Justice, State Attorney Krish Govender only had good things to say about Langa. “He stands out as a giant amongst every legal jurist.”