Justice Thembile Skweyiya, who passed away this week, has been remembered for his role in legalising same-sex marriage in South Africa.
Skweyiya died on Tuesday at the age of 76 after a short illness. He was on the bench of the Constitutional Court when it made its landmark ruling on same-sex marriage in 2005.
In a statement, Cape Town based LGBT group Triangle Project expressed its condolences to Skweyiya’s family, friends and colleagues.
Triangle quoted an excerpt from the same-sex marriage case which, it said, showed Justice Skweyiya’s commitment to the founding principles of a democratic South Africa:
Justice Skweyiya emphasised that family life as contemplated by the Constitution could be provided in different ways, and that legal conceptions of the family and what constituted family life should change as social practices and traditions changed. He pointed out further that it was a matter of our history, and that of many countries, that same-sex relationships had been the subject of unfair discrimination in the past. The Constitution required that unfairly discriminatory treatment cease.
“At this time when the tension between freedom of religion and freedom from discrimination is once again high, we hope that more jurists will continue to fight for equality and fairness in the same way as Justice Skweyiya did during his life,” said Triangle.
Born in Worcester in the Western Cape in June 1939, Skweyiya was one of the first black advocates in the country. He has been described as a champion of human rights, judicial independence and constitutional democracy.
Skweyiya retired from the Constitutional Court last year and was in May appointed as the Inspector of Correctional Services by President Zuma. He is survived by his wife, Sayo, and four children.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that a Special Official funeral will be held for Skweyiya on a date still to be announced.
South Africa remains the only country in Africa to recognise same-sex marriage.