A life ded­i­cated to jus­tice for all


The Citizen (KZN) - - Front Page - Brian Sokutu [email protected]­i­zen.co.za

Sadly, au­thor Stephen Ell­man died be­fore the book was pub­lished.

Acham­pion of so­cial change, hu­man rights and fighter for the down­trod­den is an apt de­scrip­tion of the im­mense con­tri­bu­tion made by Arthur Chaskalson – South Africa’s first chief jus­tice.

In his book – A Life Ded­i­cated to Jus­tice for All – au­thor Stephen Ell­man, Chaskalson’s former friend and col­league, lays bare all we need to know about one of South Africa’s le­gal gi­ants who played a cru­cial role in the shap­ing of the coun­try’s con­sti­tu­tion.

From how he grew up, his stu­dent life at Wits Uni­ver­sity where he at­tained an LLB de­gree, be­com­ing ad­vo­cate at the Jo­han­nes­burg Bar, be­ing part of the team that de­fended Nel­son Man­dela at the Rivo­nia Trea­son Trial, found­ing the Le­gal Re­sources Cen­tre, to later be­com­ing the first post democ­racy chief jus­tice – Ell­man has truly done a good job. No one could have done it bet­ter than Ell­man.

The late son of an English pro­fes­sor who worked so hard on the Chaskalson project but did not live to see the pub­li­ca­tion of the book, af­ter suc­cumb­ing to cholan­gio­car­ci­noma dis­ease.

Chaskalson him­self would have been so proud to see how much im­pact he had on his col­leagues, friends and the coun­try, so well chron­i­cled in the book, with some in­sight­ful quotes by other vet­eran lawyers, some of whom grew up and went to school with him.

These in­clude Ge­orge Bi­zos, Ge­off Budlen­der, Ed­win Cameron, Den­nis Davis, Joel Joffe, De­nis Kuny and Gil­bert Mar­cus – among many oth­ers.

“The in­vi­ta­tion to write Arthur’s bi­og­ra­phy meant a lot to me be­cause I had val­ued my friend­ship with him so much,” said Ell­man. “But it had an ad­di­tional mean­ing, one that went back much fur­ther in my life.

“In a clas­sic irony of life, at al­most the same mo­ment I was di­ag­nosed with cholan­gio­car­ci­noma – a rare can­cer aris­ing from the bile duct that can be par­tic­u­larly in­sid­i­ous and lethal – the in­vi­ta­tion came.

“The Chaskalson­s might have cho­sen to with­draw the in­vi­ta­tion, but they did not.”

In the book, there are cer­tain at­tributes of Chaskalson which many were un­aware of. These in­clude his pas­sion for sport – soc­cer and tennis in par­tic­u­lar – trav­el­ling and be­ing shy.

Mary was an ex­tro­vert who en­sured that all the doors were open for his son to suc­ceed in life.

The im­pres­sive 841-page bi­og­ra­phy with a cover pic­ture of Chaskalson shak­ing the hand of Nel­son Man­dela at the FNB Sta­dium shortly af­ter his re­lease from Robben Is­land, is a must read.

Former pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki says: “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.”

Says Chief Jus­tice Mo­go­eng Mo­go­eng: “Chaskalson’s con­tri­bu­tion and pas­sion for the de­vel­op­ment of the coun­try’s ju­rispru­dence and its le­gal in­sti­tu­tions can­not be overem­pha­sised.”

Au­thor Stephen Ell­man

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