Marshall delivers Fischer memorial

THE Legal Resources Centre, in conjunction with the Gordon Institute of Business Science, presented the 2009 Bram Fischer Memorial Lecture on Friday at the GIBS premises in Illovo, Johannesburg.

The lecture, titled "The Transformative Role of Judicial Independence: The View from Massachusetts" was delivered by KwaZulu-Natal-born Margaret Marshall, the 23rd chief justice of the Massachusetts supreme judicial court.

The inaugural lecture in 1995 was given by the then president, Nelson Mandela, at whose historic treason trial Fischer led the defence team.

Like his famous client, Fischer would himself be sentenced to life imprisonment in 1966.

Madiba is quoted as saying that he was "confident that there will be Bram Fischer Memorial Lectures for as long as South Africans yearn for freedom in a nonracial democratic society".

Fischer, whose name the LRC building in central Johannesburg carries, was born in 1908 into a powerful Afrikaner family and, throughout his life, was a thorn in the side of the apartheid government. With the late Beyers Naudé he stands out as an Afrikaner who distanced themselves - at great cost to themselves and their families - from the heresy of apartheid and stood on the side of the struggle for a just society.

The closest black folk have come to his name is the township development outside Dobsonville, Johannesburg west, that was set up to house those who fled the swells of the Jukskei River in Alexandra.

Justice Marshall, now a judge in Massachusetts, attended the University of Witwatersrand, where she led the National Union of South African Students.