The scale at which we do wrong things tends to be on the extreme – Mogoeng

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng in conversation with Professor Njabulo Ndebele. Picture: Sthembiso Lebuso
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng in conversation with Professor Njabulo Ndebele. Picture: Sthembiso Lebuso

You’ve got to be mentally damaged as a person who earns an income to take that which was meant to help the vulnerable, the poor, the homeless, to set up some decent structures for them to inhabit.

This is what Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng had to say in conversation with Professor Njabulo Ndebele, chairperson of the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

The conversation was a teaser of what to expect from Mogoeng who will be delivering the 17th Nelson Mandela annual lecture at the University of Johannesburg’s Soweto Campus on Saturday.

Mogoeng said that he knew that many people think he oversteps with comments he often makes in public.

“Every opportunity that arises must be used to inform ourselves and to inform our people,” he said.

He questioned the notion that a judge should only speak through his or her judgments.

“There’s little that a judge does based on the Constitution that isn’t political in character,” Mogoeng said.

The chief justice said that South Africa was a country that was sick and needed healing, adding that some of the challenges faced by the country aren’t unique to it.

“Our challenges depending on which ones you have in mind seem to be more serious in South Africa because we don’t manage them the way others do,” he said.

“I went to one country which had less economic development 25 years ago and is now flourishing. I asked them how they got it right, particularly because they don’t have the minerals and they are the size of KwaZulu-Natal, I asked what is the difference, don’t they have corruption?

“They said there’s corruption, but it is well managed.”

Mogoeng added: “They said, our people are even in corruption when they are awarded a tender. They deliver quality service and even then they steal so marginally that you’d have to be real a expert to tell.”

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According to Mogoeng there is a boldness that is injected in wrongdoing in South Africa.

“We got so used to wrongdoing and people were minding their own business that we ended up doing things that more than defy logic, in neglecting our responsibilities,” he said.

“The scale at which we do wrong things tends to be on the extreme.”

Mogoeng said that he thought that the reason we find ourselves in the situation we are in as a country is because we have failed to learn from other countries.

“We’ve had the luxury of observing what others have been doing in the past. We’ve had limitless opportunities of seeing what is wrong and what is right,” he said.

Mogoeng said that we should have first identified what the major problems were, then proceeded to look at what other countries have done to deal with those issues.

He added that it was important that every citizen in the country not only be able to identify problems but also work to provide solutions.

“This country belongs to all of us. I am not going to be pigeonholed by those who say that a judge only speaks through judgment,” Mogoeng said.

Ndebele said that the reason Mogoeng was the perfect person to deliver this year’s lecture was because of the position he occupied and the fact that he spoke out on issues that affect the country when needed.

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July 2020

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