Mogoeng: I’m not Zuma’s man

2013-10-13 14:00

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Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng says he has done nothing in the two years since being appointed to the judiciary’s top spot to prove perceptions that he is President Jacob Zuma’s man.

“Who has spoken as boldly and as clearly about the need for judicial independence as I have?” Mogoeng asked reporters in Mahikeng shortly after receiving an honorary doctorate from North-West University on Friday.

Mogoeng said there was no substance to allegations made by his detractors ahead of his appointment in September 2011, and still being made today, that the ANC or Zuma controlled him.

He said he recently authorised a judgment in favour of IFP MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini, which ruled that MPs had the right to initiate bills in the National Assembly.

“I don’t think any politician from the ruling party likes that judgment,” he said.

Mogoeng said all his predecessors had been nominated and appointed by presidents. “What immunised them from being beholden to the president who appointed them?”

He added that all judges were appointed by the president.

“Does this now mean that the whole judiciary is beholden to the president because he appointed them, or is it only Mogoeng who has this special thing about him so that anybody can manipulate him as they please? There is no substance to this thing.

“I have nothing against him (Zuma). I am not distancing myself from him, but I am not close to him.”

Last Sunday, Mogoeng handed a proposal to Justice Minister Jeff Radebe that would take the judiciary a step closer to being completely “divorced” from political control.

The Office of the Chief Justice was declared a department in 2010, but it is still reporting to Radebe and receives funding from the justice budget.

The next step was to establish the office as an entity without a political head, Mogoeng said.

It would be a “legal independent entity such as the Auditor-General”, he said.

Its administrative head, the secretary-general, would be answerable to judges and would account to Parliament.

Radebe’s spokesperson, Mthunzi Mhaga, did not immediately answer his phone when approached for comment.

Mogoeng said although the “personal independence” of judges, which meant “no institution, however powerful, ought to dictate to you how to decide a matter” was secured by the Constitution, institutional independence was still a way off.

“You also do not want a judiciary that would be dependent on the executive in terms of resources and support staff for things that are very intimate to the operations of the court,” he said.

“We also want to be responsible for the appointment of court administrators and registrars.”

But he conceded that there “can’t be absolute independence. No arm of the state is absolutely independent.”

He said: “Independence goes hand in hand with accountability. You’re not paid to be independent, you’re paid to serve the nation, and if you are to serve the nation there must be a way of monitoring your performance and assessing whether or not you’re pulling your socks up as much as you should.

“You can’t have a judicial officer who is hardly ever in court on Fridays even if there is work to be done, who sits for one hour because there is shopping to be done somewhere.”

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