Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has described the Judicial Conduct Committee’s (JCC’s) misconduct findings against him and its ruling that he must apologise for the public comments he made about South Africa’s foreign policy on Israel as “flawed and disturbingly superficial”.
On Friday, Mogoeng lodged an appeal against retired Gauteng Deputy Judge President Phineas Mojapelo’s findings against him last month.
In his 39-page notice of appeal dated April 2, Mogoeng said: “The decision of the honourable Justice Mojapelo is unprecedentedly and needlessly voluminous. And I am constrained to say that his reasoning is flawed and disturbingly superficial.
“This is a serious assertion to make about the work of a colleague and must therefore be properly explained and undergirded by appropriate jurisprudential and factual material, hence this relatively long document,” reads Mogoeng’s notice.
Mogoeng’s appeal follows Mojapelo’s scathing judgment in which he found that Mogoeng breached the code of judicial conduct by “becoming involved in a political controversy and lending the prestige of the judicial office to advance his private interests”.
Mogoeng found himself in hot water last year when he spoke during a webinar hosted by Israeli newspaper the Jerusalem Post. Quoting the Bible, he said that “as a Christian”, he had to “love and pray for Israel because I know hatred for Israel by me and for my nation will – can only – attract unprecedented curses upon our nation”.
Despite neocolonialism, which was still causing suffering to Africans, South Africa had not cut ties with or disinvested from its former colonisers and its position needed reflection, he said. Mogoeng’s remarks caused a public outcry, leading to three separate complaints being lodged with the JCC.
In his judgment, Mojapelo noted: “Judges are to stay out of politics, and are only permitted to pronounce on the legal and constitutional boundaries that may apply to those politics.”
Mogoeng was directed to “unreservedly retract” his statements within 10 days. On the deadline day – March 14 – the JCC secretariat said that Mogoeng had indicated that he would appeal the judgment.
The deadline for Mogoeng’s appeal was today, and it was filed yesterday, but signed and dated April 2.
Mogoeng has remained critical of the JCC judgment against him and fired back in his appeal, reiterating that the charges were “baseless allegations that amount to nothing more than suspicion or far-fetched inferences”.
He also argued that Mojapelo misdirected himself “in material respect by finding that these complaints are not about the constitutional rights to freedom of religion, belief, thought, opinion and freedom of expression”.
He also noted that the fact that Mojapelo found him guilty of involvement in political controversy on the basis that he criticised and proposed changes to the official policy of government towards Israel amounted to “a material misdirection”.
“The South African government does not have an official policy towards Israel that is at variance with any of the statements I made on the Jerusalem Post webinar,” he wrote.
He accused his colleague of having “failed to interpret the code of judicial conduct in a way that promotes the spirit, purport and objects of the right to freedom of expression and freedom of religion, belief, thought and opinion, and recognises the supremacy of the Constitution over the code”.