18 July 1937 – 24 April 2021

On behalf of the Association, I wish to extend our heartfelt condolences to the family of Retired Judge Fergus Blackie who passed away on Saturday 24 April 2021 at the age of 84.  We were and remain saddened by the news.

Those of us fortunate enough to have known Fergus as a friend, mentor and colleague will always fondly remember him as a quiet, unassuming, respectful but determined gentleman in all aspects of his life.

Fergus joined the Association as a Fellow in 2004 and Honorary Fellowship was conferred upon him by the Board of Directors in 2015.  He was the vice-chairperson of the Association for two terms under the chairmanship of Chris Binnington before he was elected as chairperson in 2010 which he remained, with distinction, until 2015.

Fergus subsequently served as chairperson of the South African branch of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators together with Fellows of the Association, including Lawrence Schäfer, Corrie Moll, Riaan Booysen and myself.

Fergus led an exemplary and inspiring life.  He was born, raised and educated in the Zimbabwe (former Southern Rhodesia).  He had his first exposure to arbitration in a construction dispute concerning the Kariba Dam during the 1950s.  He was admitted as an attorney in 1963 and subsequently as advocate in 1966.  He took silk in 1980.  Fergus was a Senior Judge of the Water and Administrative Courts of the former Southern Rhodesia from 1978 (which subsequently became the Republic of Zimbabwe on 18 April 1980) until 1984.

Fergus was appointed as Judge of the High Court of Zimbabwe in 1986, a position which he held until retirement in 2002.  His term on the Bench will stand as proud monument of his fierce independence as jurist and his staunch commitment to the rule of law.  During 2002, at a time when he was one of Zimbabwe’s most experienced judges, he, for example, committed the Minister of Justice of Zimbabwe to a three-month jail term for contempt of court.  This enraged the regime then in power and he was subsequently arrested and detained under inhumane conditions.  American Federal Judge Bernice B Donald, representing the American Bar Association at the time, investigated the state of the rule of law in Zimbabwe and concluded that Fergus was arrested for political reasons, in retribution for his finding of contempt against the Minister of Justice, and in order to humiliate him.  These sentiments were also expressed at the time by the General Council of the Bar of South Africa and other similar entities around the world.  At the time, Fergus was the seventh judge in just over a year to step down under pressure after issuing rulings that enraged the regime in power in Zimbabwe at the time.

We will miss this exemplary lawyer and fine gentleman.

Rest in peace, Fergus.

Tjaart van der Walt SC