Start main page content

Honorary doctorate for Pius Langa

- By Wits University

Former Chief Justice Pius Langa was conferred with a posthumous honorary Doctorate of Laws at Wits University’s Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management graduation ceremony on Thursday, 21 November 2013.

His brother, Mandla Langa, accepted the doctorate on his behalf and delivered an address to the graduands. “When I say ‘my brother’, claiming the man who was this country’s second chief justice and first black person to ascend to that position, I feel somewhat self-conscious. The possessive pronoun sits heavily on my tongue, because even though we were connected by blood, Pius belonged to a very wide constituency,” he said.

Mandla described how, at Pius’ funeral, he realised that the man he’d known for many decades was a mystery to him. He said that as a family, they thought they’d suffered a loss, but when they saw the outpouring of grief, they realised that they had no idea of the actual size of the loss.

“Because we had no instrument with which to get a measure of things, we looked into the eyes of others to act as a rough guide to the extent of our bereavement,” he said.

As an author of fiction, Mandla took the liberty of imagining what his brother might have said to the graduands on the occasion of their celebration. “One of the most important observations which he would have made is that we are living in a very complex time. He would have enjoined young people to read the tea leaves – to read the news and interpret the news for themselves, especially with some of the developments that have taken place.”

Mandla referred to the incident at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya earlier this year and said that Pius would have spoken about human rights, and the need for the African continent to safeguard the future of its young people.

He said he would also have spoken about the essentiality of education, especially as we head into a future which is complex, and the scourge of HIV/Aids in Africa, which Pius felt needed all the resources that the continent could muster.

“He would have spoken about the inequalities in this country, and the fact that we are still the most unequal society. He was especially conscious of the issue of gender and I’m sure he would have been appalled by some of the recent acts of violence against women and children.

Mandla encouraged the graduands to continue with a sense of mission and to find their own, individual ways of meeting the challenges which beset society. “Do not be intimidated by the challenge or daunted by the magnitude of what needs to be done. You are the hope of Africa and you will not fail.”

Listen to Mandla Langa's address.

Read the citation for former Chief Justice Pius Langa.