UCT law giant dies

01 October 2007

UCT mourns the death of distinguished alumnus and former chief justice Michael Corbett (84) who died on 16 September.

Regarded as one of South Africa's great jurists, Corbett was appointed the country's chief justice in February 1989. He oversaw the country's transition to democracy until he retired in 1996.

Corbett was awarded an LLD honoris causa by UCT in 1982 and was a member of the UCT Council for many years.

In 1994 he swore in President Nelson Mandela at the Union Buildings.

Corbett started practice at the Cape Bar in 1948, during which time he also lectured part-time at UCT before his appointment to the Bench in 1963.

"His elevation to the then highest court in the country, the Appellate Division in Bloemfontein, in 1974 was a swift one, which reflected the general respect with which his work as a judge was regarded," Dean of Law Professor Hugh Corder said.

He described Corbett as "a person of unswerving commitment to justice, of complete integrity, and of quiet dignity in all he did, both on and off the Bench".

"Judge Corbett made abundantly clear his commitment to the rule of law and a Bill of Rights for South Africa in 1979, at a time when it was extremely unpopular, to say the least, to express such views."

He was awarded the National Order of the Baobab (Gold Class) by Mandela in 1996. HELEN THÉRON

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