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Chair of the Press Council of SA, judge Phillip Levinsohn dies at 83

By Witness Reporter

Levinsohn, who was well-known in Pietermaritzburg, had been with the PCSA for years after he retired as a judge.

Retired Judge Phillip Levinsohn died on Tuesday. Photo: Alex News, Caxton Media Group
Retired Judge Phillip Levinsohn died on Tuesday. Photo: Alex News, Caxton Media Group

Condolences have poured in for the chairperson of the Press Council of South Africa (PCSA), judge Phillip Levinsohn (83), who died on Tuesday.

Levinsohn, who was well-known in Pietermaritzburg, had been with the PCSA for years after he retired as a judge.

KZN premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube paid tribute to Levinsohn, saying he dedicated his life to upholding justice and the rule of law in South Africa before his retirement.

Judge Levinsohn was known for his firm but fair approach to the law. He was respected for his integrity, impartiality and commitment to justice. He was also a champion of human rights and played an important role in South Africa’s transition to democracy.

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She further hailed Levinsohn as a distinguished legal practitioner, serving as an advocate and then as a judge in the KwaZulu-Natal division of the high court.

Levinsohn was also a member of the judicial service commission that is responsible for the appointment and discipline of judges in South Africa.

His legacy as a dedicated and principled jurist lives on. He will be remembered for his contribution to South Africa’s legal system and his commitment to justice and human rights. Judge Levinsohn fought for the recognition and promotion of women judges to higher positions in the judiciary.
As we mourn his death, we honour judge Levinsohn’s life and legacy and offer our condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. May he rest in peace knowing that his contributions to the legal system will be remembered and cherished for generations to come.

Levinsohn presided over a number of high-profile cases.

Levinsohn was awarded the Order of the Baobab (Silver) by the South African government in 2013, and was also awarded an honorary doctorate of law by the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2016 for his contributions to the legal profession and the justice system in South Africa.

Even though he had retired, judge Levinsohn continued to be involved in legal education and training, serving as a visiting professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the University of the Western Cape.
He has also been a mentor to many young lawyers and judges, and has been actively involved in promoting access to justice and the rule of law in South Africa.

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Meanwhile, the Middleburg Observer reported that Levinsohn was also the longest-serving judge moderator of the board of examiners for new advocates and the only judge to have been invited to continue as a judge moderator after his retirement.

Press Council executive director, Latiefa Mobara, remembered Levinsohn as “a gentle, caring man, who was a fierce defender of media freedom and a passionate believer in fair media coverage as espoused by the Press Code”.

He will be sorely missed by all of us who knew him.

Deputy chair of the PCSA, Amina Frense, said judge Levinson was a friend and a mentor, whose experience and intellect were much admired by everyone on the Press Council.

He contributed immensely to the highly reputable organisation we are today. We have lost a giant, a true human rights champion who lived by the letter and spirit of a free and more equitable society.

Chair of the PCSA appeals panel, judge Bernard Ngoepe, said: “Levinsohn was a distinguished and highly respected judge. He served with distinction for many years as a judge of the KwaZulu-Natal high court and also as its deputy judge president.

Prior to becoming a judge, Levinsohn had a sterling career as an advocate in that province, leading to his appointment as senior counsel.

Justice Yvonne Mokgoro, chair of the Press Council’s appointments panel, said: “Judge Levinsohn was an esteemed and highly respected colleague. As the Press Council’s chair, he oversaw the establishment of an effective and efficient co-regulatory structure that assists the public with complaints against print and online media and was a committed champion of media freedom. He will be sorely missed.”