A Cape Town Labour Court judge has died after he was bitten by a black mamba while on holiday in Zambia.
Judge Anton Steenkamp, 57, was doing what he loved, touring Africa with his wife, Catherine, when he was bitten by the snake on Monday, the family said.
“We are devastated. No words. What an incredible man. His wife, Catherine, is still on her own in Zambia. They were touring Africa. We as a family were very, very proud of him,” relative Ruby Steenkamp told News24.
His close friends have described him as a man of integrity, one who was kind and generous to people he came across.
Close friend Charles Leonard, the arts editor at The Conversation Africa, said Steenkamp was his comrade from the 1980s, when they were students. Leonard described Steenkamp as an “exceptional” person.
He said while Steenkamp was kind, generous, loyal and committed to bettering more than just society, he also had an exceptional brain, and was one of the finest on the bench.
“He was a progressive person, truly committed to a non-racial society. I’m totally devastated. We used to chat almost every day on the phone,” he said.
Although Steenkamp was based in Cape Town, he would not miss meeting up with Leonard when he was on duty at the Johannesburg Labour Court.
“He and his wife Catherine were doing what he loved so much – touring through his beloved Africa,” he said.
Steenkamp’s friend, well-known journalist and author, Anneliese Burgess said she was “bewildered” by the news of his death.
“We are absolutely devastated. None of us can begin to comprehend what has happened. He was such a brilliant man, and such a mensch,” Burgess said.
Burgess recalled that the last time she saw Steenkamp was at her book launch in Cape Town in 2018. She was “so touched” that he had made an effort to be at the launch.
“‘Stenie’ as he was known to all of us old Stellenbosch lefties was simply one of the best people I knew, and I am completely devastated at the news of his passing,” she said.
Author, columnist and documentary filmmaker Max du Preez said Steenkamp was a student activist, and when he finished studying towards his LLB degree, he went and worked for anti-apartheid Afrikaans national weekly newspaper, Vrye Weekblad because he strongly believed in the fight against apartheid and for democracy.
“When we closed our doors he went back into the legal profession and he became one of the youngest judges ever. When I think of him, if someone asks ‘what does integrity mean?’ i say go and look at Anthon Steenkamp,” he said.
Du Preez said Steenkamp also had a fun side of him and was adventurous and always travelled.