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Pius Langa Remembered
"The Langa family wishes to express its gratitude for all the messages of support received from government, the judiciary, the legal fraternity, various organisations and the general public during this difficult time," the family said in a statement.
Langa died at Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg at the age of 74.
He retired in 2009 and went on to chair the Press Freedom Commission, which looked into regulation of the print media in South Africa.
Pius Nkonzo Langa was born in Bushbuckridge on March 25, 1939.
He went from a factory job to the country's top judicial post after a long legal career.
Langa became deputy chief justice in 2001 and was appointed chief justice by then president Thabo Mbeki four years later, succeeding Arthur Chaskalson.
He began his career in law as a messenger in the justice department in 1960, after a three-year stint working in a shirt factory.
Langa went on to study for B Luris and LLB degrees, via correspondence, at the University of South Africa, and became an advocate in 1977.
The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) said Langa, "a son of the working class", would be remembered for his commitment to the defence of democracy and human rights.
"We dip our banners in honour of an exemplary democrat, whose life was dedicated to improving the lives of the people and defending their rights," said spokesman Patrick Craven.
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said Langa was a distinguished jurist who contributed immensely to justice particularly in the area of giving meaning to the constitution, with emphasis on ending poverty as a socio-economic rights issue.
"South Africa has lost a brilliant legal mind. I know how difficult this must be for the family. They are in our thoughts and prayers."
Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said South Africa had lost a legal stalwart who dedicated his life to human rights and law.
"His commitment to human rights and the rule of law was demonstrated through his relentless participation in various organisations and structures advocating for the practice of government regulated by a Constitution," he said.
He played a major role in the transition from apartheid to a constitutional and democratic era and contributed immensely in strengthening the independence of the judiciary and asserting its role as the cornerstone of the country's democracy.
"The country will miss his cogent contribution to the transformation of the judiciary," said Radebe.
Former state president FW de Klerk said Langa played a crucial role in laying the foundation for South Africa's democracy.
"During his tenure at the Constitutional Court, but also after his retirement, he worked tirelessly to help build -- in a balanced and fair manner -- a non-racist, non-sexist and just society founded on the values of human dignity, equality, supremacy of the Constitution and the Rule of Law," said De Klerk.
"Justice Langa's legacy as constitutionalist and jurist will continue to serve as a sterling example of independence of mind for generations to come."
The family was expected to made an announcement on Thursday, regarding arrangements for a memorial service and the funeral.
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