A luncheon was given by the Island Group in honour of Fanie Cilliers SC on 16 March 2018. Altus Joubert SC  was invited to deliver the key note address.


The substance of the speech was delivered off the cuff, with no recording to preserve it. It dealt with Fanie’s life and times – at Stellenbosch, Oxford and at the Johannesburg Bar. Altus gave his perspective on what forged Fanie’s character and personality, painted the world in which he grew up, told stories that rendered a window on his soul and nature and spoke on the contemporaries that enriched Fanie’s life. The conclusion of the speech is quoted verbatim.

“So, in sum: What was the true nature of Fanie and his legacy? How will he be remembered?

[1]              Fanie was a man for all ages:

  • For his wit and humour Fanie could well have lived in the Age of Enlightenment in France, before the Revolution.
  • For intellectual curiosity and the breadth of interests he was a Renaissance man, who would have been truly at home in 16th century Florence.
  • For his love for tradition and witty conversation and for his regard for integrity and scorn of materialistic things, he could as well have been an Oxford Don in the late Victorian Age.

[2]             Fanie lived by his own compass, unaffected by a desire to conform, to gain acceptance, or to be “with it” or to be “cool”. He had no desire to compete with the Jones’ – he did not even know who the Jones were. And if he knew, he would not have rated them!

[3]           Fanie had a deep seated suspicion of what others might call “polish”. For him it was all false – a veneer to hide a lack of substance.

[4]           Fanie had the make-up and the true nature of the kind of person tailor-made to become iconic – possessing almost unattainable standards of intellectual integrity, a brutal work ethic and a relentless pursuit of excellence.

[5]           Fanie possessed the soul of a true romantic. The allure of his life was that he was forever in search of the unattainable. He wanted to be someone who would do something immortal that would echo in eternity. It was always unattainable, being an advocate, not a theoretical physicist.

[6]           Fanie had the touch of the common man, but had no interest to aspire to common place things.

[7]           For as long as we value the pursuit of excellence at this Bar, Fanie will be remembered.

  • For his work ethic.
  • For his intellectual honesty.
  • For his profound knowledge of the law.
  • For his brilliance as an advocate.
  • For his wide-ranging interests.
  • For his humor and his wit.
  • And for living life, as he did, to the full, right up to the very end.

[8]          For all in all Fanie stood shoulder to shoulder with the great icons of the South African Bar.

[9]          The Bar has lost a giant. We have lost a friend. He will be sorely missed.

I already do.”