The F-word: Case of a judge who believed too much

2012-03-24 08:47

Now that the heads of courts have spoken and dismissed as untrue the allegation that the Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng had “instructed” anybody to attend the now controversial leadership conference, we can now start speculating on the reasons why the country’s head of judiciary gets such harsh publicity.

With the argument that he should not have been given the position because of experience defeated, it is inexplicable that the other reason to disqualify him – his publicly known stance on matters of faith – seems to be the last weapon in the arsenal of those who cannot countenance his rise to the top.

Mogoeng’s detractors have focused on what they themselves admit is their interpretation rather than the chief justice’s specific words. His version is that he alerted heads of courts to a leadership conference he thought judges could learn something from. His foes say it was “legal-speak” for an instruction to go.

I agree that it would have been best for Mogoeng to say nothing about the event. He would have been at peace, but the unrelenting prejudice against him would merely have been postponed.

Though couched in language laden with sophistry, the argument is that we cannot trust a man who believes “too much” with matters relating to our Constitution.

What is not clear is why we should trust other judges who believe less or do not believe at all.

Why should we, for example, trust judges who arrange for their new-born sons to have their foreskins cut? What about judges who wear goatskin around their wrists?

Or one who indulges in a piece of dough and some wine which he calls the body and blood of an ancient moral philosopher from somewhere in the Middle-East? If we should not, why should we not?

His gaffe aside, the chief justice is a victim of secular fundamentalism and self-righteousness. That is why they focus on one of the conference leaders.

John Maxwell’s faith is amplified at the expense of the fact that he is an internationally renowned leadership expert whose skills are used by Fortune 500 companies and international governments. He is not just another itinerant pastor under a tent.

The zeal of the secular fundamentalists in trying to push out Mogoeng is merely the flipside of religious fanaticists like Boko Haram.

Both believe that if you do not share their opinions on matters of faith then you have no right to be. You are the devil incarnate. The believing self-righteous have decided by themselves what the “accepted” levels of belief a reasonable person should have and Mogoeng’s are not acceptable.

Matters of faith are subjective. Our superstitions are no more valid than the next person’s just because they are ours. We have to live and let live.

If Mogoeng is a bad judge, let the public be shown the paucity of thought in or the illogic of his judgments.
We must get over the fact that we had preferred someone else for the job.

For better or for worse, the person in charge is Mogoeng Mogoeng. To cast him as a fool because he chooses to believe and to believe in the manner he chooses, is to insult all those who choose to believe in (a) god(s) by whatever name(s).

It is also worth noting that many of those leading the charge to discredit the chief justice are usually among the first to cry interference of the judiciary each time the courts or judgments are criticised.

This is of course not to say that Mogoeng or any judge or judgment should be beyond scrutiny. Judges play too important a role to be treated like street corner mealie sellers.

They must, however, be criticised in manner that is relevant to their core business, not whether they speak in tongues when they pray or that they support Kaizer Chiefs or that they like Kenny G.

» Follow me on Twitter @fikelelo

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