Durban - Justice Edwin Cameron of the Constitutional Court has expressed his admiration for Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng for publicly expressing his views on religion.
During his public lecture at the University of KZN, Howard College Campus on Wednesday, Justice Cameron said it was unfortunate that most of Justice Mogoeng’s critics had failed to read his whole speech.
Justice Mogoeng was in the spotlight earlier this month, accused of trying to force his Christian beliefs on all South Africans.
“We come from an era when members of the judiciary system weren’t allowed to express their views on morality and religion, yet abused the law to enforce their beliefs.
“We now live in a country where we have the right to express ourselves freely and that is what the chief justice did, that is his constitutional right. His speech is now being abused for what it’s not,” said Justice Cameron.
He went on to say that, in the same speech, Justice Mogoeng also committed himself to serving a multi-religious nation.
Justice Cameron is the first, and remains the only, senior South African official to state publicly that he is living with HIV/Aids. He worked as a human rights lawyer during the apartheid era and was appointed by late President Nelson Mandela as judge in 1994.
Under the theme “20 years of constitutionalism and the rule of law – prize or pain”, Justice Cameron on Wednesday also tackled issues of active citizenry. He spoke passionately about how it was unfortunate that most South Africans still did not have their basic social rights fulfilled. However, he said that did not mean “everyone must wait for the state to deliver everything to them”.
Justice Cameron cited how the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) used the constitution to fight against drug companies who were taking advantage of the lack of antiretroviral treatment in government health centres.
“Yes, there are ways citizens can make their complaints heard by the government, but I think we can all learn from how the TAC first fought to make the drugs more affordable before they tackled the government to make them freely available to everyone.”
Justice Cameron also played a critical role in the battle to get the government to roll out antiretroviral treatment in state health centres under president Thabo Mbeki’s leadership.
As an openly gay man, Justice Cameron is active in fighting for the rights of the homosexual, bisexual and transgender community.
He refused to be drawn into a discussion on whether it was better serving under Thabo Mbeki or President Jacob Zuma.
He did, however, say he believed that “if there was less corruption in this country, there would be less service delivery protests than we are having now”.
“Crime, corruption, political will and commitment are huge problem areas in this country and it was the same even under Mbeki’s leadership,” said Justice Cameron.