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Farewell Deputy Chief Justice Moseneke

Written by Noluthando Mkhize
Deputy Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court Dikgang Moseneke has retired from the bench after almost 40 years in the legal profession.

“What a privilege it was to serve you all and I am thankful for that. I had the space to work, to think, and to write to my heart’s content. I have had the pleasure of writing on virtually every big political, social and commercial disputes in our land.

“I have had the joy of going to law schools in this land and in other lands only to find extensive passages of what I have written taught to young lawyers at law schools. I have been blessed with remarkable colleagues who made judicial collegiality appear natural and inbred,” said the out-going Deputy Chief Justice during a special farewell session hosted by the Constitutional Court.

President Jacob Zuma wished the Deputy Chief Justice well on his retirement and thanked him for his service to the judiciary and country.

“Deputy Chief Justice Moseneke rose from almost impossible circumstances as the youngest prisoner on Robben Island through to becoming Deputy President of the Pan-Africanist Congress, an astute businessman and pioneer of Black Economic Empowerment to being one of the country’s finest jurists and esteem Justice of our Constitutional Court,” said President Zuma.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng described his colleague as “a lawyer with exceptional abilities and a jurist that contributed enormously” to South Africa.

Mogoeng said he found it difficult to speak about someone as distinguished as Moseneke.

“There are profound lessons that we can learn. He has always been humble. He has told me, through tough times, that it is an honour just to be a judge.” Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development John Jeffery said Deputy Chief Justice Moseneke was one of the most respected and astute legal minds in the history of our country.

“Our courts have over the past two decades held government accounta-ble to ensure, in particular, the socio-economic rights of the poor and vul-nerable,” said Deputy Minister Jeffery.

He added that the Deputy Chief Justice was known as a highly principled, fearless and outspoken jurist – a man who is not afraid to speak truth to power.

The rise to the top

Deputy Chief Justice Moseneke was born in Pretoria in December 1947. He attended primary and secondary school there. But at the age of 15, when in standard eight, Moseneke was arrested, detained, and convicted of participating in anti-apartheid activities.

He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in Robben Island.

“The pain and adversity in my childhood prepared me for a life-long commitment to conduct that will bring true and full liberation of our land and all its remarkable people. The sojourn on Robben Island set me on a course of constantly asking: what are the features of a good society?”

“So I knew when I came out of Robben Island that I had to make a choice either to go into exile or to remain a combatant in the domestic struggle. I chose to do things the way I know best. To become a lawyer of remarka-ble excellence, of unfailing integrity and of commitment to the broader struggle of our people in all their kinds, shapes and colours for an equal and just society,” he added.

While jailed in Robben Island Deputy Chief Justice Moseneke obtained a BA degree in English and Political Science and a B luris degree. He later completed an LLB, all three degrees were conferred by the University of South Africa.

Before his appointment as Justice of the Constitutional Court, in November 2001, Moseneke was appointed a Judge of the High Court in Pretoria. In November 2002 he was appointed as judge in the Constitutional Court and in June 2005, Moseneke was appointed Deputy Chief Justice of the Republic of South Africa.

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