IT was a special occasion yesterday as the heavy wooden doors of the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court swung open and 40 black-robed prosecutors burst into applause.
They had formed a guard of honour outside the court to bid farewell to retiring chief prosecutor Reon Lombard and acknowledge his 47 years’ service to the justice system.
“There are a lot of mixed emotions,” an emotional Lombard said.
“After 47 years it is difficult to leave but it’s one of those things. There is a time to come and a time to go.”
He shrugged, and nodded towards the imposing building and the prosecutors gathered outside it.
“I have had excellent years working in justice, and for that I am extremely grateful,” he said.
Lombard’s legal career started on November 29 1969 as a clerk at the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court.
He then went to university and started his career as a prosecutor and then as a magistrate.
In 2000 he returned to the court that had first sparked his interest in the law – this time as chief prosecutor.
Public prosecutor Syltricia Sayster said the special guard of honour had been arranged because such an exceptional boss deserved an extraordinary send-off.
“We wanted to do this for him because he is such a fair guy. He . . .” she said, her voice cracking with emotion as tears flowed.
“He has a lot of empathy for everybody and he was always there for us. His door was always open to us.”
His colleagues described him as a mine of information, always willing to lend an ear and to advise them on both legal and personal matters.
“He was a father to all of us,” Sayster said.
On his first morning out of office, Lombard plans to take his wife for breakfast on the beachfront.
He also has a trip planned to the Kruger National Park, and looks forward to visiting his daughter, who lives abroad.
A new chief prosecutor has not yet been appointed.