Rights groups come out in support of Mogoeng

2013-08-13 13:59

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Nine of South Africa’s most prominent rights organisations have come out in support of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng’s stance on transformation.

In a joint press release issued today, the organisations said they “oppose the recent complaint against the chief justice and regard it as ill-considered”.

A furious war of words has been raging in the legal community for over a month, after Mogoeng made a fiery speech in which he accused unnamed individuals and NGOs of “declaring war on transformation”.

He said: “They seem to be more concerned about white men who are not appointed and do not seem to be concerned about the reasons for not recommending them for appointment.”

This led to a complaint against Mogoeng being laid with the Judicial Service Commission by Paul Hoffman, who argues that Mogoeng’s remarks were racist in nature and were “evidence of a contemptuous and carefully orchestrated attempt to defeat the ends of justice and descend into the political arena”.

But in their statement today, the civil society organisations say the complaint “does damage to the much needed project of transformation in the legal profession and threatens to chill the important dialogue about sex, race, sexual orientation and gender on the bench, at the Bar and side bar”.

The nine NGOs – the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, Centre for Child Law, the Foundation for Human Rights, the Legal Resources Centre, the National Association of Democratic Lawyers, Section27, the Socio-Economic Rights Centre of South Africa and the Southern African Litigation Centre – said a debate about transformation was “seminal to the process of developing a transformed legal community”.

They further said: “This requires us to ask deeply uncomfortable questions and we urge that the discussions remain dignified and communal, and not an individualised one reduced to the office of the Chief Justice.”

In voicing their support for Mogoeng, these organisations have added their voices to the Black Lawyers Association, the Higher Education Transformation Network and several academics, including the dean of the KwaZulu Natal Law School, Professor Managay Reddi.

She said the attempt to impeach Mogoeng showed an “inherent conservatism and refusal by some culprits of apartheid in the legal system to share in the responsibility for transformation,” reported Cape Town daily, the Cape Argus.

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