Mogoeng death row outcry
Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma's candidate for South Africa’s next chief justice is embroiled in a new scandal - this time about his endorsement of the death penalty.
The National Association of Democratic Lawyers (Nadel) has lashed out at Judge Mogoeng Mogoeng's "active participation" in pushing in 1988 for a man whose original legal team didn’t represent him properly, to be executed.
This is the latest in a range of criticisms levelled against Mogoeng, who is scheduled to be interviewed by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) on Saturday.
In 1988, Mogoeng appeared as state advocate for the justice minister in the old Bophuthatswana supreme court to oppose an application by a convicted man for a stay of execution.
A day before he would have been hanged, the man (referred to as Ngobenza in the judgment) asked the court to postpone his execution pending a new appeal against his conviction and a clemency application.
Ngobenza believed his case wasn’t properly presented by his lawyers.
Then judge president of Bophuthatswana Theal Stewart eventually granted the stay of execution after it became clear to him that there was a chance the man could successfully appeal against his case, and receive a reprieve.
Stewart disagreed with Mogoeng’s insistence that, under the circumstances, Ngobenza’s execution should go ahead.
Nadel spokesperson Khanya Jele told City Press that massive unanswered questions remain about Mogoeng’s career as state advocate between 1986 and 1990.
The JSC should question him on this, she said.
In Nadel’s submission to the JSC, the association mentions Mogoeng’s “active participation” in enforcing the death penalty, and the fact that little is known about his career as state advocate is a serious concern.
“It is not merely the death sentence itself, but its use and application during the apartheid years that inform Nadel’s concerns,” the association states in its submission to the JSC.
Nadel wants to know whether Mogoeng appeared in political prosecutions under apartheid and how this fits in with his prospective new position.
Jele said numerous applicants for judges’ positions after 1994 have been excluded because of their pasts.
Advocates appearing before the JSC who were members of the secretive Broederbond organisation under apartheid are constantly grilled about this.
Nadel is not the only organisation that wants Mogoeng to be asked tough questions when he appears on Saturday.
Section27, a public interest legal body, has lodged a formal complaint against Mogoeng’s candidacy on behalf of the Sonke Gender Justice Network, the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project and the Treatment Aciton Campaign.
The group analysed numerous judgments by Mogoeng and argued that his approach to gender-based issues were unbecoming for a judge.
In cases where women were raped or assaulted, Mogoeng “reached for arguments akin to 'she asked for it', 'she wasn’t really hurt', ‘he was understandably sexually aroused’ and ‘it wasn’t really that bad because he was not a stranger’,” reads Section27’s submission.
The cases in question include the sentence of Eric Mathibe, reported by City Press last week, which was reduced to an effective fine of R2 000.
Mathibe dragged his girlfriend behind a car for about 50m on a gravel road.
Asked if Zuma had made a rigorous study of Mogoeng’s judicial and prosecutorial record before he was nominated, Zuma’s spokesperson Mac Maharaj said: “The president’s nomination is before the JSC and he has sought the comments of leaders of the parties represented in Parliament.
“He has encouraged debate and awaits their responses.”