Quiet Confidence: The Silent Justice


At the age of 14 he had to leave school to earn a living. He worked in a shirt factory, then found employment as an interpreter and messenger for the Department of Justice.

Later completed his matric and then his various law degrees with the help of his brilliant mind, iron discipline, hard work and his tenacity.

The late former Chief Justice Pius Langa believed in trust. He took on the highest office of the Constitutional Court following its honeymoon phase, and created a judiciary that people trusted.

He wanted people to trust him. When a court clerk asked him to sing to prove his claim that he was a baritone, he smiled and asked: “Why? Don’t you trust me?” He did not sing.

Pius Langa was a soft spoken, even quiet, man.

He often worked hard alone in his office that he would forget to eat. The tray with his food would sit next to him and he would take a few bites.

His subordinates in the beginning were intimidated by his quiet, serious stature. It took them a couple of months to realise that half of the time he was joking when he talked to them.

He always listened to his clerks, making them feel as though their opinion mattered. Langa liked it best when they disagreed and would argue their respective points.

In his book My Own Liberator, Former Judge Dikgang Moseneke described Judge Pius Langa as follows:

“Pius Nkonzo Langa was a quiet man, certainly less talkative than me, and he was a patient listener. He was also supportive and welcoming. He was blessed with quiet wisdom and judicial temperament.”

We live in a world value system that has a belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight.

Introversion, along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness, is now a second class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology.

As a child you may have overheard parents apologise for your shyness. [‘Why can’t you be more like the Maphosa boys.”]

Research suggests that the vast majority of teachers believe that the ideal student is an extrovert, the one who is articulate, team player, not shy, can stand in front of a class and talk, talk to confidently students, teachers, parents etc.

Talkative people, for example, are rated as smarter, better-looking, more interesting, and more desirable as friends. Speed of speech is also counted, we rank fast talkers as more competent and likeable than slow ones.

The same dynamics apply in groups, where research shows that the voluble in the group are considered smarter than the quiet and reticent, even though we know that there is zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.

It is important to note that some of the great ideas, art, and inventions, from the theory of evolution to van Gogh’s sunflowers to the personal computer, came from quiet and cerebral people who knew how to tune in to their inner worlds and the treasures to be found there.

Without introverts, the world would be devoid of:

  • The theory of gravity
  • The theory of relativity
  • Apple Inc
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Thriller and Billy Jean
  • Microsoft
  • Harry Potter
  • Tesla, PayPal, Space X, and Solar City
  • Kaizer Chiefs
  • Mixit
  • Hashim Amla

Neither E=MC2, Maru or The Godfather were dashed off by a party animal.

Contrary to popular belief, introverts have social skills and occassionally enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while they wish they were home in their pajamas.

When asked to described himself in a sentence Trevor Noah say: “I’m an introvert with extroverted tendencies.”

They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family.

They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation.

The late Chief Justice is the epitome of work hard in silence let your success be your noise.


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