Judge Skweyiya, who retired from the Constitutional Court in May last year, passed away on Tuesday. At the time of his passing, Justice Skweyiya was appointed as the Inspector of Correctional Services by President Zuma for a three-year term, effective from May 2015.
In his tribute, President Zuma said Judge Skweyiya was one of the distinguished members of the judiciary who served the nation at many levels of the justice system.
Judge Skweyiya served the nation with great distinction as an anti-apartheid lawyer, human rights activist, Senior Counsel, Judge of the High Court as well as a Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa.
President Zuma said the nation has lost a dedicated leader in the development of the country's jurisprudence and a renowned human rights lawyer and activist during the height of apartheid repression in the 1980s.
"On behalf of the government and all the people of South Africa, we wish to convey our heartfelt condolences to his family and the entire judiciary. May his soul rest in peace," said the President.
Chief Justice Mogoeng said Judge Skweyiya will be missed for his wisdom, humility and passion for human rights, judicial independence, and a functional constitutional democracy.
“He was indeed a pleasant person to work with, very considerate and a peaceable man. His death is a great loss to South Africa and we will miss him.”
Justice and Correctional Service Minister Michael Masutha and his Deputy Thabang Makwetla were also among the leaders who hailed Judge Skweyiya for his contribution.
“Judge Skweyiya was a brilliant jurist, whose legal expertise helped in shaping the jurisprudential elements in the justice system," said Minister Masutha.
Deputy Minister Makwetla said his service to the South “eaves a mark punctuated by a pedigree of excellence, integrity and hard work”.
Skweyiya was born in Worcester in the Western Cape’s boland region in 1939. He went on to study law at the then University of Natal from 1963 to 1967.
He was admitted as an advocate in 1970 in KwaZulu-Natal, and also became an advocate of the high courts in Lesotho and Namibia and 1974.
He was one of the African pioneers in the legal profession and became the first African to be conferred with the silk status (Senior Counsel) in 1989.
As counsel specialising in commercial law, Judge Skweyiya could have settled for a more lucrative practice in commercial law.
“But his passion for justice and freedom resulted in the bulk of his practice being dedicated to cases associated with civil liberties and human rights,” said Chief Justice Mogoeng.
He joined the bench as a Judge of the KwaZulu-Natal Division of the High Court in 2001 and was elevated to the Constitutional Court in May 2002.
His enormous contribution to the development of the jurisprudence is known and appreciated worldwide.
He has also been the Chancellor of Fort Hare University for several years.