Durban - Outgoing Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has said his decision to appeal the finding of the Judicial Conduct Committee (JCC) was for the benefit of other judges and magistrates.
Mogoeng was speaking at a virtual thanksgiving service on Sunday night, following the statement issued by the secretariat of JCC, announcing his decision to appeal. The JCC had ordered Mogoeng to unconditionally apologise and retract his pro-Israel views made in June last year.
Mogoeng said the JCC’s decision was dangerous because judges would never get to enjoy the judicial office if this is what they would be exposed to.
“Judges, as citizens, have constitutional rights of freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of thought, and freedom of opinion. It is not correct to say that when you assume office, you’ll automatically let go of your constitutional rights,” he said
He said there was nothing in his remarks, which called for the peaceful mediation of the situation in the Middle East, during the Jerusalem Post webinar last year, that contradicted any official SA government policy.
“I respect the law and that is why I’m appealing,” said Mogoeng.
Mogoeng said if it came to the point where he was forced to reject God, he would rather be without money or position and please God rather than man.
“If I get to the point where there is a judgment that says ‘Mogoeng you must say you hate Israel and the Jews’ I would rather cease to be chief justice, than to do it. If I get to the point where they say ‘Mogoeng you must say you hate the Palestinians, and Palestine’ I would rather cease to be chief justice than to do it, because my God has instructed me to love and not to hate,” he said.
He said it was very unusual that the JCC had instructed him to offer an apology.
“I've got to appeal that for the sake of the judges and the magistrate,s who will find life impossible if they were to be subjected to this kind of thing ... It must come to an end,” said Mogoeng.
Mogoeng said, by apologising, he would be admitting to the four counts he was found guilty of, including that he was involved in political controversy, separation of powers was breached, the prestige of office was to advance the interests of the Jerusalem Post, as well as Israeli government, and involvement in unacceptable extra-judicial activities.
The complainants in the matter brought against Mogoeng are South Africa BDS Coalition, Africa4Palestine and the Women's CulturalGroup.
The South African BDS Coalition said it was appalled but not surprised that Mogoeng had chosen to appeal the ruling.
The coalition said they would oppose the application to appeal.
Africa4Palestine said it was disappointed by Mogoeng's refusal to comply and apologise and would oppose the appeal.
The human rights organisation said, as the primary complainant, their legal team advised that they would be given an opportunity to make submissions in the upcoming appeal process.
The organisation added that Mogoeng had not responded to a request for engagement regarding the matter however, the offer still stood.
Some organisations have come out in support of Mogoeng.
The South African Friends of Israel (SAFI) said welcomed the appeal announcement and said prayer vigils would continue in support Mogoeng.
“A petition in support was handed over to the Office of the Chief Justice, which has been signed by nearly 125 000 people and counting. We reiterate that the chief justice's remarks are legitimate, fair and non-controversial. They were made in accordance with his deeply held religious beliefs, which are protected under the South African constitution, alongside the judicial code which regulates judicial conduct.”
Pastor Mightyman Manganyi saluted Mogoeng on Facebook.
“Whoever blesses Israel shall be blessed also, we stand with Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng…”