Mogoeng: Tread gingerly or hamba kahle

2013-04-15 19:47

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Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has told critics to “tread gingerly or to hamba kahle”.

Speaking at an international event in Cape Town, Mogoeng also issued a grim warning to the media not to “rubbish” the Judicial Service Commission because that could destroy constitutional democracy.

“Red lights begin to flash whenever a concerted effort is being made to project the only true guarantor of constitutional democracy in a bad light, especially when you are recklessly going about that,” said Mogoeng.

The chief justice made these comments during the opening ceremony of the international Commonwealth Law Conference today.

Several South African lawyers told City Press they thought the tone of Mogoeng’s speech was “inappropriate” because the conference was an international event attended by dignitaries, chief justices and prominent lawyers.

Mogoeng told the conference that the surest way to weaken a constitutional democracy was to deligitimise the judicial appointment authority and by extension, its judicial officers.

He said the need for transformation was so obvious that it did “not even require to be defined”.

Mogoeng said there was a need for “regular commentators” in the media to provoke urgent discussions about the redistribution of land and about those who had previously been excluded from the economy.

He said that the consequences of not taking stock of some of the major issues affecting South Africa could mean “we find ourselves in the same situation as some of our neighbouring countries”.

Mogoeng did not mention any country by name, but said these “neighbouring states” had been forced to take “drastic action”.

The chief justice also said the “truth often gets compromised” when “campaigns” for the appointment of preferred judicial candidates take place.

As an example, Mogoeng referred to the discussion document regarding the appointment of white males, which was authored by commissioner Izak Smuts.

The document sparked controversy and led to the resignation of Smuts on Friday.

Mogoeng said weekend media reports incorrectly stated the document had been leaked when it was in fact circulated.

“Why don’t you tell the nation the truth?” said Mogoeng.

The chief justice also said there was an urgent need to support black practitioners.

Mogoeng said this was because there was an inclination to support “those you know”.

“Naturally, because our white compatriots are really in the commanding heights of the economy, they give instructions to white attorneys, who in turn brief white advocates,” he said.

This is not the first time Mogoeng, who himself survived intense media scrutiny in the run-up to his appointment as chief justice, has had harsh words for his critics.

In February, Mogoeng defended the JSC when questions about its commitment to gender transformation were asked.

“All sectors within SA society must be transformed, including the judiciary,” he said.

“The economic sector remains lamentably untransformed, the four big media houses cry out for meaningful transformation in terms of ownership, race and gender.”

Speaking at the farewell function for former judge Bernard Ngoepe last year, Mogoeng also warned against “what vocal and well-resourced opposition party leaders can do to you, what resources and forces the rich and powerful can mobilise against you, and what ridicule, recycled criticism and misinformation campaigns the media and others could subject you to”.

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