Johannesburg - Outgoing Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng defiantly told retired Gauteng Deputy Judge President Phineas Mojapelo that the Palestine-Israel dispute was peripheral and not inherently South African in his response to complaints against him.
Pressure has been mounting on Justice Mogoeng to comply with Judge Mojapelo’s Judicial Conduct Committee decision ordering him to unconditionally apologise and retract his pro-Israel views made in June last year.
Justice Mogoeng told a webinar organised by The Jerusalem Post that he was under an obligation as a Christian to love Israel and pray for Jerusalem’s peace, which means that country’s peace.
”If I curse Abraham and Israel, the almighty God will curse me too. I cannot do anything, as a Christian, other than love and pray for Israel because I know hatred for Israel by me and for my nation can only attract unprecedented curses,” he said at the time.
However, in his decision, Mojapelo directed Mogoeng to read his unconditional apology and retraction for his pro-Israel comments in a meeting of all serving Constitutional Court justices and publicly release it.
However, in his two responses to the complaints against him lodged by #Africa4Palestine, the South African BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) Coalition and the Women’s Cultural Group, Mogoeng appeared defiant, insisting that there was no constitutional value he undermined in his utterances.
”The Israeli-Palestine politics or issues are not an integral part of South African politics … They are peripheral and not inherently South African in character, although they deserve the attention of South Africa,” he responded to the complaints.
Mogoeng told Mojapelo that the code did not forbid the involvement of a member of the judiciary in extra-judicial activities including those embodied in the rights as citizens subject to certain qualifications.
”Mature democracies don’t penalise judges for holding strong views on Christianity or any religion. They insist on transparency. That should apply to South Africa as well,” Mogoeng maintained.
Mogoeng, who retires later this year, argued that judges have fundamental rights and freedoms and are not to be needlessly censored, gagged or muzzled.
Mojapelo found Mogoeng to have involved himself in a political controversy in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct.
The SA Communist Party (SACP) has urged Mogoeng to comply with Mojapelo’s ruling, saying his utterances implied that he could not feel any indignation at the injustices endured by Palestinians.
”The utterances by Chief Justice Mogoeng implied that he could not feel any indignation at the injustices endured by the Palestinian people, the victims of Israeli apartheid,” the SACP said.
The Media Review Network described Mojapelo’s decision as historic and sending out a clear message that the pro-Israel lobby and its sympathisers “cannot use members of the judiciary to further its global propaganda campaign to justify and normalise its genocide, epistemicide, ethnic cleansing and colonisation of Palestine”.
According to the South African Friends of Israel, Mogoeng’s remarks were legitimate, fair and non-controversial and protested at the committee’s decision, warning that it could effectively have a chilling effect on future behaviour, which would be unacceptable in a constitutional democracy.
The SA Zionist Federation encouraged Justice Mogoeng to take the committee’s decision on review.
Nathi Mncube, spokesperson for the judiciary, told Independent Media that he would comment once he had an official statement to make.