Ramphele fears Mogoeng’s gender views

2011-09-10 16:51

Leading academic and businesswoman Mamphela Ramphele says she is “very afraid” that violence against women and children will not be curbed on newly-appointed Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng’s watch.

Mogoeng was formally appointed by President Jacob Zuma on Thursday. The period between his nomination and appointment was marred by criticism of his alleged gender bias in rulings on sexual violence.

“As a woman, a black woman, I am very afraid that the alarming prevalence of gender-based violence and sexual abuse of women and children will not be curbed under his leadership of the Constitutional Court.

“The idea that what women wear and the choices they make to opt out of relationships would not be respected is likely to erode the gains that women made as part of the freedom dividend to have their rights enshrined in our Constitution,” said Ramphele in response to Mogoeng’s appointment.

After his appointment was confirmed, Mogoeng vowed to “uphold and protect the Constitution and the human rights entrenched in it, and to administer justice for all persons alike without fear, favour or prejudice in accordance with the Constitution and the law”.

Ramphele also criticised Mogoeng’s comments during an interview of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), that he believed he was God’s choice for the job.

“He does not seem to be sensitive to the fact that ours is a secular state and that while entitled to his own beliefs, he should not impose them on citizens with a diversity of belief systems.

“The idea of being a chosen one in post-apartheid South Africa that is still wrestling with the legacy of a system of governance by a minority that was driven by the notion of a ‘chosen people’ is problematic and shows a lack of sensitivity and judgment.”

But advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza SC, who chairs Advocates for Transformation and voted for Mogoeng’s appointment at the JSC, defended the new chief justice, saying he was often subjected to “below the belt” comments.

Ntsebeza said the debate about Mogoeng’s appointment brought tensions in the legal fraternity into the open “in all their ugliness”.

“In a strange sense, in my view that may not be a totally bad thing because it jolts us into the reality that we are still a very divided society, and please let us not pretend otherwise.

“Now is the time for all of us to look for real solutions, because we now know the reality of the problems we have and we will not try and put a gloss over the complexities.”

According to Ntsebeza there is a “struggle out there for control of the judiciary and for the shaping of our jurisprudence, which in turn is aimed at shaping societal values”.

The “characterisation” of Mogoeng as a “traditionalist” is a manifestation of that ideological divide, he says.

“Criticism of his views, mostly disguised as opposition only to what is seen as his Christian fundamentalism, is not only relentless but often ‘below the belt’. His views on ‘ubuntu’, as he himself implied in the interview, are caricatured and treated ‘disrespectfully’, Mogoeng said, almost as if – I suspect he wanted to say – they are merely a childlike and childish romanticisation of a not so perfect past.”

According to Ntsebeza, certain people “want more than is permissible and legitimate libertarianism. They want licence to say and do anything to and about anyone – all in the name of defending the Constitution and its values of freedom of expression.”

“It is, indeed, the age of unreason – the age of gross licentiousness!” Ntsebeza said.

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