By Dr Masimba Maavaza | The death of the learned friend Counsel Alex Magaisa has been met with a flood of tributes from senior members of the legal profession and Zimbabweans of all walks of life.
Magaisa who died last Friday aged 47 following a fight with heart problems was a lawyer a teacher and an advisor of no question.
I never agreed with his political beliefs but I admired his commitment to what he believed in so dearly.
The first Zimbabwean to be appointed to a tenure-track professorship in law at Kent University, Magaisa was the founder of the Big Saturday Read where he will persistently produce a well researched brief on current political and legal issues affecting Zimbabwe. Even though he was biased towards the opposition he would always say there will never be democracy without diversity.
I have grown to respect Alex Magaisa and his writings. He would write his article through morphine and needles. The pain he went through can never be explained by anyone but himself. I do understand the pain he went through.
Can you imagine his life each time he goes to the hospital he takes it as his last day. A life of never knowing whether you will see your family again after every visit to the hospital.
A life of knowing that the last person you will talk to before you die may be a nurse. The life of not knowing if this day is your last above all the life of pain. Instead of occupying his remaining time with the fear of death Alex turned to writing. That was a brave man. The nation had “lost a jurist of historic stature. The profession the has lost a cherished colleague and I have lost personally a cherished opponent.
I am confident that “future generations will remember Alex Magaisa as we knew him a tireless and resolute champion of justice.
Magaisa made vast and lasting contributions to the law and to the profession. He was a commanding voice as an advocate for gender equality and a tenacious protector of the rule of law even though his submissions were tainted with a misplaced support for CCC or MDC. It was because of him that “many people dared to become lawyers at a time when such a career path was viewed with scepticism”.
Shakespeare once said
“The First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All the Lawyers”
Shakespeare’s Tribute to Trial Lawyers.
The great American trial lawyer Daniel Webster said: “Justice is the greatest concern of man on earth.” There is no greater professional calling than to stand as a lawyer at the bar of justice and breathe life into the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the statutory law and common law by defining, asserting and defending the rights of citizens. Lawyers play many vital roles on the world’s stage but none more important than preserving, protecting and perpetuating the rights of citizens, both individual and business. Magaisa was the master of it all.
One of the many enigmas to arise out of the corporate dominated decade of the eighties is the advent of lawyer bashing. The adversaries of our proud and noble profession continue to misquote the law, distort case results and unjustly attack the institutions in a mass media onslaught designed to silence the victim’s voice – the trial lawyers. Magaisa stood upright in the winds of such turbulence
Those who attack the works of Magaisa are as miserably misguided about the law as they are about the judicial system which they disdain so freely.
Magaisa spoke strongly against those who wanted to disrupt the judiciary and abrogate the common law, to the detriment of the rights of individual citizens, consumers, and injured persons who deserve competent representation and adequate redress for harm done to them.
I am hard pressed to think of an individual who more singularly elevated our collective aspirations than Alex Magaisa.
Alex Magaisa provided inspiration, and set a standard of excellence for all of us in the legal profession. He
led a life dedicated to the service of others and making this world a better place. He was a legal guru the best of the best he was “a giant among us mortals. Magaisa was fond of referring to ‘pathmarking’ precedents. He was the true pathmarker, a lawyer who broke barriers and served as a role model for so many. I count myself honoured to have debated with him issues affecting our lovely Zimbabwe. appeared in front of her.”
He was a “lawyer’s lawyer”. His success as an advocate took root in large measure in his discipline in selecting cases and in carefully reading precedent – both for what it included and what it omitted and putting it in his articles. The“shared respect for good legal craftsmanship was… a central, if largely overlooked, foundation for his friendship with the left.
Magaisa firmly believed that mature people could in good faith take different views on even the most important legal and political questions without being histrionic, or posing a threat to his adversary’s feelings.
. During the last weeks of his life, I sat with him twice debating Zimbabwe politics. It was always clear that his respect for the institution was exceeded only by his genuine affection for its citizens.
It is one of the great joys of my life that I was privileged to share a platform with Alex even though our meetings were brutal.
To be in his company and to share conversation with him was a delightful experience.
This remarkable, unique man of four score and seven never grew old, even as his body gave way to the cruelty of his condition. He was ever young and up to date, whether the subject be law, politics or other current events. He lived not in the past, except to apply its experience to the present and the future.
For better or worse, we have given our lives and such abilities as we have to furthering the great cause of justice… I think we are keepers of a dream for our time, one of the oldest, the best dreams of the human race, a dream that was old when the world was young, a dream that will never die, a dream of open courts dispensing equal justice, the dream of peace and good will through law.
Alex was committed to the rule of law, applied fairly and temperately to ensure equal justice for the meek as well as the mighty. This gentle man kept faith with the dream to which he was entrusted. He contributed mightily to the cause of peace and good will, and we would do well to pursue his example.
Now as he lies lifeless in the cold we pray that God will comfort his family.
Till we meet again Fare thee well Counsel. I wish we had built Zimbabwe together.