Johannesburg - Several legal organisations and NGOs have opposed a complaint calling for the impeachment of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.
They described the complaint as “ill-considered” in a joint statement on Tuesday.
“The complaint does damage to the much needed project of transformation in the legal profession and threatens to chill the important dialogue about sex, race, sexual orientation and gender on the bench, at the bar and (the) sidebar,” they said.
“The chief justice's jurisprudence while in this office is considered and respected and the complaint against him is, in our view, ungrounded. The democratic right to speak openly and honestly should be celebrated.”
The group comprises the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, the Centre for Child Law, the Foundation for Human Rights, Lawyers for Human Rights, the Legal Resources Centre, the National Association of Democratic Lawyers, Section 27, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of SA and the Southern Africa Litigation Centre.
Last Tuesday, the Institute for Accountability said its director Paul Hoffman SC laid the complaint in response to a speech Mogoeng made to Advocates for Transformation last month.
The complaint included allegations of contempt of court and attempting to defeat the ends of justice, which could be construed as gross misconduct.
The institute said this could be grounds to justify Mogoeng's impeachment.
In his speech, Mogoeng questioned critics who complained when a white male candidate was not recommended for appointment to the Bench, while those who were appointed were described as “executive toys”.
The organisations said the complaint was a personal attack on Mogoeng's integrity.
In a separate statement, the Black Lawyers Association said criticism on Mogoeng were “baseless” and “unfounded”.
It said that since the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) had started to “flex its muscle” in ensuring that it lived up to the Constitution, a group of “well resourced, properly financed institutions” emerged with the view to “properly interpret” the Constitution.
“They are purely aimed at destabilising the office he holds and the able manner in which he is discharging his mandate as chairman of the JSC...,” it said.
“While we respect rights of every person including these institutions, this creeping abuse of processes by the well resourced should be rejected as contemptuous and not be seen or understood to be advancing democracy.”