Mogoeng asks for opportunity to defend himself

2011-09-03 10:00

Constitutional Court judge Mogoeng Mogoeng, who has been nominated for the post of chief justice, has asked his critics for an opportunity to defend himself during his interview with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) in Cape Town.

Before reading from a prepared statement, he said: “About two weeks before the president made my nomination known, the media was abuzz with speculation in relation to who is likely to be nominated and I was singled out for criticism as if there was not enough after my nomination was announced three weeks ago.

“We have had a series of criticisms against me in relation to my suitability ... as this one who hated women who hates gay and lesbian people,” he said.

“Since I have never had opportunity to say a word, I ask of this commission in all fairness to be afforded the opportunity to have not only commission but the nation as a whole to have the image of this kind of nominee before them listen to my full response.

“I am the kind of person who speaks loud, so let no one mistake me for an emotional person because I am a person who is in control of my emotions.”

Mogoeng proceeded to read his statement, in which he defends his record as a judge.Mogoeng was interrupted by Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, who is chairing the interview, when he reached page nine.

“Do you propose reading it word for word, or are you going to give us the highlights of your responses?” Moseneke asked.

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, who sits on the JSC, came to Mogoeng’s defence.

“The vicious mobilisation against the president’s nominee is quite unprecedented,” Radebe said.

“He needs to be given an opportunity to ventilate and express his views. He has a right of freedom of expression as much as all those who viciously attacked his integrity.”

Earlier, Aids activists sang and danced inside the hall of Cape Town Convention Centre where Mogoeng was to be interviewed.

The special sitting was open to the public and the media.

There was an audience of more than 1 000 people, many wearing “HIV positive” and “Feminist” T-shirts.

Moseneke asked the audience to refrain from clapping during the proceedings.

“The applause will hardly help in having an open and beneficial debate,” he said.

“I will ask you not to go that route otherwise we will have to adjourn and hold the debate in private meeting.”

Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) spokesperson Mark Heywood said the organisation had many concerns about Mogoeng’s appointment.

“We are firmly of the view that he is not a suitable candidate.”

Heywood said Mogoeng had delivered a significant number of judgments that showed “patriarchy” and leniency to rape and women abuse.

“We have studied Justice Mogoeng’s written submission to the JSC, but his response does not settle our concerns. His judgments speak for themselves.”

Mogoeng was nominated by President Jacob Zuma to be the country’s next chief justice following the retirement of former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo after his term of office expired on August 14.

In his submission to the JSC, Mogoeng said he was not homophobic or gender-insensitive, nor is he inexperienced for the job.

Before the interview began, the DA’s candidate on the JSC, Hendrik Schmidt, had wanted to reopen the debate on further candidates.

After much discussion, however, Moseneke ruled the commission would stick to the agenda and discuss the issue later.

“It is not necessary to conduct a separate ballot and we will proceed with the agenda,” Moseneke said.“If there is any need to revisit this matter it will be at the end of the interview.”

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