IRR fears Mogoeng views on socio-political woes may compromise judiciary
Johannesburg - The SA Institute of Race Relations (IRR) has cautioned Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng against expressing his views on the country’s socio-political problems, including transformation.
IRR said Justice Mogoeng’s continued expression of his views risked compromising the impartiality of the judiciary.
IRR policy fellow John Kane-Berman described as disconcerting Justice Mogoeng’s recent Nelson Mandela Lecture - in which he stressed that the country’s judiciary wielded enormous power and that it had to use the Constitution as an instrument to effect transformation.
“The lecture constitutes a timely warning to litigants and/or defendants of the strong views the chief justice holds on a number of contentious issues,” Kane-Barman said.
He said this was not the first time Mogoeng weighed in on contentious issues confronting the country, adding that he had dismissed claims that the government had plenty of land for redistribution.
The IRR is among a number of organisations actively opposing the process of amending the Constitution to pave the way for the expropriation of land without compensation.
Kane-Berman also slammed Justice Mogoeng for branding as “traitors” those who acted as fronts for black economic empowerment and those who were living in wealth while being indifferent about the plight of SA’s majority.
He said that while Justice Mogoeng encouraged judges not to be entangled in matters that were brought before them, he seemed to be entangled over race, apartheid and colonialism.
“No doubt many people are, but the question is whether the chief justice should permit himself the luxury of giving vent in a public lecture to powerful views on issues that may come before him when he sits as a judge.
“He himself warned in his Mandela lecture about the importance of making sure ‘that we don’t have a compromised judiciary’. Is he heeding his own warning?” Kane-Berman said.
Political analyst Ralph Mathekga described the IRR’s outlook on politics as conservative, adding that it was naïve to expect jurists not to weigh in on matters that confronted society.
“Their view of the judiciary is in the context of the olden days where judges were expected to be indifferent, with their role being just to preside over matters before them. We are living in the modern days now where we need the judiciary that is accessible and understands its role in transforming society,” Mathekga said.
Mathekga said this included the need for court and jurists who were sensitive to the tone of the public, adding that this was the case in many democracies, including the US.
“Judges are going to weigh in on the matters that confront the public. There is nothing that compromises their capacity to fairly apply the law. They cannot be expected not to have a world view even if they have an obligation to impartially and objectively preside over cases,” he said.
Professor Tinyiko Maluleke said Justice Mogoeng’s frank approach in expressing his views was unconventional for a head of the judiciary, even though there was nothing that prohibited him.