3 December 2012

South Africa: Chaskalson to Receive Official Funeral

The late Arthur Chaskalson, the first president of South Africa's Constitutional Court following the advent of democracy in 1994, will receive a special official funeral, the Presidency said on Monday.

The former Chief Justice passed away at Johannesburg's Milpark hospital on Saturday after a brief illness.

"This category of the funeral is reserved for distinguished persons specifically designated by the President of the Republic of South Africa," the Presidency said in a statement.

National flags will fly at half-mast at all flag stations in the country from Monday to Friday. A private family funeral will take place at Westpark Cemetery in Johannesburg on Monday, with President Jacob Zuma expected to attend.

The Presidency said that Zuma had "learned with great sadness" of Chaskalson's passing away.

"On behalf of all South Africans, we reach out to his wife and family as we salute a life inseparable from South Africa's march to freedom," Zuma said in a statement. "We wish the Chaskalson family strength during this difficult time. Our thoughts are with them."

Chaskalson served as the first President of the Constitutional Court. He also served as Chief Justice of South Africa from November 2001 until his retirement in 2005.

Zuma said Chaskalson's life had embraced a courageous role in the fight against apartheid, in the negotiated transition and the shaping of country's constitutional democracy, as well as in the building of the post-apartheid society based on reconciliation, reconstruction and a South African nationhood.

Former president Nelson Mandela appointed Chaskalson president of the Constitutional Court in 1994. He also served as South Africa's Chief Justice from November 2001 until 2005.

Chaskalson was part of the defence team in the Rivonia Trial in which Mandela and seven others were sentenced to life imprisonment.

Throughout his life, Chaskalson worked on the legal defence of opponents of apartheid.

In 1978, he helped to establish the Legal Resources Centre, of which Mandela once said: "This remarkable institution perhaps did more than any other in the 1970s and 1980s to challenge executive abuses, and to be a legal voice for the voiceless."

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