The past verdicts that maketh Mogoeng

2011-08-20 19:22

A woman who was tied up with wire and dragged for 50m behind her boyfriend’s car was asking for it.

This is what the country’s likely new chief justice implied during an unreported ruling in the High Court in Mafikeng.
In 2002, Judge Mogoeng ­Mogoeng intervened in the “heavy” sentence that Eric ­Mathibe received for the act.

The magistrate tried to justify the two-year sentence he had ­imposed, saying this type of ­assault was common against women in the Odi District in the North West and that it was ­“barbaric and old-fashioned”.

In his review decision, Mogoeng said these were valid arguments, but the fact that Mathibe’s girlfriend had “provoked” him was a mitigating factor in his actions. ­Also, the victim did not suffer “serious injuries”, Mogoeng found.

She suffered various abrasions on her stomach, right leg and knees from where she was dragged on a dirt road, but ­Mathibe refused to get medical help for her. He took her to a ­doctor the next day.

Mogoeng found that the two-year sentence was “too heavy, ­according to any standards”. He reduced the sentence to a fine of R2 000.

City Press went through dozens of Mogoeng’s unreported judgments as judge and later judge president of the court.

In various rulings, he did not ­hesitate to criticise lazy or ­incompetent magistrates.

Administration makes up a large part of a chief justice’s work and Mogoeng was part of his predecessor’s task team in terms of this.

The majority of Mogoeng’s judgments were in criminal cases as opposed to complex civil cases. Critics have used this to question his experience.

And, if Pastor Mogoeng ­Mogoeng believes what his church preaches, he will struggle to choose between his beliefs and the Constitution.

Winners Chapel International preaches that homosexuality is a perversion and members of the congregation can buy their ­bishop’s book to find out how to be cured. Abortion is also considered taboo.

On its website, the church boasts that it has cured members of a host of illnesses through prayer. If a woman has been ­pregnant “for five years and seven months and does not want to give birth to the baby”, there is also ­testimony on the website about how the baby can be prayed into the world.

Various church leaders confirmed yesterday that Mogoeng was a member of the Johannesburg branch and provided “pastoral services”, such as house visits, but did not preach.

The church was founded years ago in Nigeria by Bishop David Oyedepo, one of the richest and most powerful spiritual leaders in the world.

Advocate Paul Hoffman, director of the Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa, said ­Mogoeng’s religious beliefs could lead to a potential conflict between church, state and the judiciary.

“What will happen if he feels his religious beliefs are more important than his day job?”
President Jacob Zuma’s office said this week that Mogoeng is very capable, qualified for the post and committed to the transformation of the judiciary.

Stakeholders are expected to give their input to Zuma within the next week before an appointment is made.

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