Mbeki: Chaskalson was a great South African

Thabo Mbeki has described former Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson as a ‘great South African.’

South African President-elect Thabo Mbeki (C) is congratulated 14 June 1999 by the president of the Constitutional Court, Judge Arthur Chaskalson (R), as he leaves the South African Parliament in Cape Town with outgoing President Nelson Mandela (L) after some 400 new deputies elected him president of South Africa in the parliament's afternoon session. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Former President Thabo Mbeki has described former chief justice Arthur Chaskalson as a 'great South African', whose mark has been permanently imprinted on South Africa's legal system.

Mbeki said on Monday that Chaskalson possessed a high and enviable ethical literacy which was cemented by an unmistakable humility.

Mbeki's spokesman, Mukoni Ratshitanga said, "The Chief Justice was an outstanding South African, one of the nation's finest sons who used his great brilliance and legal profession to fight the apartheid system."

Chaskalson passed away at Milpark Hospital on Saturday morning at the age of 81, following a long illness.

The Presidency's Mac Maharaj said all national flags will fly at half-mast from Monday morning as Chaskalson will be laid to rest in the afternoon.

"As the first president of our Constitutional Court, he leaves a special imprint on the building of a united, non-racial, non-sexist constitutional democracy.

"On behalf of all South Africans, his wife and family, as we salute a life inseparable from South Africa's march to freedom."

Former Chief Justice, Pius Langa described Chaskalson as a great friend who fought through the trenches for democracy.

Langa took over from Chaskalson as Chief Justice in 2005, but the pair had known each other for more than a decade by that point.

He said Chaskalson's death is a loss for the nation, democracy and especially for those who were closest to him.

Human rights advocate George Bizos said Chaskalson's achievements even after he left his position as Chief Justice should be remembered by South Africans eternally.

Bizos attended law school with Chaskalson during the 1950s and also worked with him defending Nelson Mandela during the Rivonia trial.

Chaskalson was born in Johannesburg on 24 November 1931.