Jacob Zuma’s rape trial advocate Kemp J Kemp dies from Covid-19 complications

27 January 2021 - 09:59 By Tania Broughton and Franny Rabkin
Jacob Zuma's counsel, Kemp J Kemp.
Jacob Zuma's counsel, Kemp J Kemp.
Image: Len Khumalo

Renowned advocate Kemp J Kemp has died from complications related to Covid-19.

Kemp, who was arguably best known for defending former president Jacob Zuma during his 2006 rape trial, passed away on Tuesday night.

Kemp’s death was confirmed by Barry Skinner, chairman of the society of advocates in KwaZulu-Natal.

A close friend, who did not wish to be named, said Kemp had been admitted to hospital after battling Covid-19 symptoms a few weeks ago.

He was discharged and had been staying with a friend but recently moved back to his Ballito apartment.

When he didn’t answer his phone, the alarm was raised and he was found dead in his bed.

The legal fraternity is mourning his death.

In posts on social media, Kemp was described as “eccentric” with a brilliant legal mind.

“He was a legal legend who would come to chambers at 3am in his pyjamas,” said one person who posted.

Another post read: “Kemp was a true renaissance man — brilliant mind, sportsman of note, genuinely humble and kind and he knew how to have fun too.”

Admitted to the bar in 1986 and taking silk in 1997, Kemp also represented Zuma during the prolonged battle over corruption charges, the trial for which is yet to get properly underway.

It was Kemp who in 2007 first likened his litigation strategy in Zuma’s defence to Stalingrad, reportedly telling the KwaZulu-Natal High Court it was like “burning house to burning house”.

He leaves behind two adult children.

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