Johannesburg – Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has called out the lack of commitment to the value of human life by South Africans who choose to glorify material possessions and harbour hate.
Mogoeng was delivering the keynote address at the 10th annual Bram Fischer lecture on Thursday night at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg.
Mogoeng said Fischer knew that the there was no fundamental difference between black and white people.
"We still find it possible to keep in our boots or the back seats of our vehicles cricket bats so that if a person of a particular race drives in a manner that I disapprove of, I can bash his or her head.
"Whether death or madness ensues is none of my business. How could we have forgotten the sacrifice of the likes of Bram Fischer so easily?"
Mogoeng said Fischer was a man whose conscience never allowed him to do wrong.
Racism rearing its ugly head with gusto
"Where does your conscience, if you still have [one], point you to? Do you ever think about the multitudes that are homeless, the multitudes that still have bridges, street corners and, at best, shacks for accommodation? Or is it all about you and your family?
"Have you fallen so much in love with money – or maybe I should not say 'you'. Have we fallen in love so much with money, power, positions, fame and prestige that human life and human suffering does not matter anymore?"
Mogoeng asked if what Fischer had fought and died for had lost relevance to the country and its people.
He said racism was rearing its ugly head with gusto and confidence.
He also highlighted the issue of the landlessness of the country's indigenous people as well as their exclusion from participation in the economy.
Fischer was a man of peace who wanted South Africans, black and white, to come together, said Mogoeng.
"The wealth of South Africa is almost immeasurable."
No South African should think that if they were to share, they would be without, Mogoeng said.
"Black people do not have to muzzle white people out of what they have in order to survive or thrive.
"And white people do not have to act as if they are yearning for the 'good old days' when racial exclusivity explains poverty and dignity."
Access to justice
Mogoeng asked what would be achieved by driving a wedge between black and white.
"South Africans, please, please, please, let us pause and reflect on the selflessness of the likes of Bram Fischer," he pleaded.
In a message directed to lawyers in South Africa, Mogoeng asked if they ever thought about the extreme inequality in the country when they determine their fees.
"People in pursuit of wealth charge in a manner that makes the concept of access to justice a mockery. Do we ever think about the poor?" he said.
Mogoeng begged South Africans to consider forming think tanks that will help reflect on the country's history.
"Why are we here where we are right now, divided along the racial lines?"
He said it appeared that South Africans were focused on trivial issues when there were more important matters to deal with.
Mogoeng said South Africa was in a fascinating phase which called for reflection.