Mogoeng faces removal bid

2013-08-01 00:00

A SENIOR advocate has accused Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng of bringing the judiciary into disrepute and wants him removed from office.

The call for the impeachment of South Africa’s top judge is unprecedented and comes in the same week that former Chief Justice Pius Langa will be buried in Durban.

Advocate Paul Hoffman SC said yesterday he had briefed senior counsel to lodge a complaint against Justice Mogoeng with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). It relates to Justice Mogoeng’s address titled “The Duty to Transform” that he delivered at an annual general meeting of Advocates for Transformation (AFT) in Cape Town on July 6.

Hoffman, the director of the Institute for Accountabilty in Southern Africa, told The Witness he had instructed advocate Izak Smuts SC to act on his behalf in the matter. The complaint would be lodged soon.

Smuts resigned from the JSC after he expressed concern that it appeared to be overlooking white men for appointment as judges, a charge denied by the commission.

Said Hoffman: “He [Smuts] knows about this through and through. It is an urgent matter and deserves to be given attention within this week.”

Smuts declined to comment, saying: “I don’t think it is appropriate for me to speak to the press on a matter that I may be involved in.”

The complaint follows correspondence between Hoffman and the office of the chief justice about Justice Mogoeng’s forthright speech in Cape Town.

Mogoeng told the gathering that those who benefitted from apartheid and now masqueraded as agents of constitutional compliance were more concerned about white men who were not appointed as judges, than about the transformation of the judiciary.

In his letter, Hoffman accused Justice Mogoeng of venturing “into the political arena, in which I believe you have no place and in the hope that you will reconsider your stance”.

Blocking career ambitions because of race and gender appeared unconstitutional and reminiscent of apartheid practices, he said.

Hoffman also expressed concern about what Justice Mogoeng had apparently told him two days after the AFT address.

Writing in the Sunday Times, Hoffman said Justice Mogoeng had remarked to him: “You can continue to challenge me, but you will continue to be frustrated!”

Hoffman said it was “unthinkable that any chief justice of South Africa should evince such bias and malice, both of which had no place in any proper judge”.

He asked whether Justice Mogoeng would consider recusal should he ever appear in his court and also reserved his rights to complain to the JSC about the chief justice bringing “your high office and the judiciary into disrepute”.

Replying to Hoffman’s letter, Justice Mogoeng’s chief of staff Jakes Jacobs said the chief justice had asked him to convey “that you may wish to forge ahead with all the steps that you are minded to take in relation to his address to the Advocates for Transformation”.

Yesterday, Hoffman said: “It is sad it came to the point that the chief justice leaves me with no option but to fulfil the mandate of the Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa.

Justice Mogoeng’s spokesperson, Lulama Luti, said the office of the chief justice had responded to Hoffman’s letter and“at this stage there is nothing more to add”.

JSC spokesperson Dumisa Ntsebeza SC said he was not aware of Hoffman’s intended complaint. “The JSC would obviously have to take a position on the issue, given that the chief justice is the chairperson thereof.”

The Constitution provides for a judge’s removal only if he or she suffers from incapacity, gross incompetence or misconduct and if the move is supported by a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly.

The Judicial Service Commission Act provides for a process to deal with complaints against judges.

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