It remains to be seen whether Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng will buckle under the mounting pressure and retract his statement on Israel. Several bodies have criticised the Chief Justice’s comments, with one having lodged a complaint with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).
During his participation in a webinar hosted by the Jerusalem Post this week Mogoeng said, among other things, that as a Christian he believed that those who curse Israel would also be cursed.
This has been viewed as expressing his support for the Jewish state. Calls for him to withdraw the statement or resign have been mounting.
Quoting a Bible verse, the Chief Justice said as a Christian, he’s obligated to love Israel.
“The first base I give it is on Psalms 122 verse 6 which says: ‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. They shall prosper that love thee.’ And also Genesis 12 verse 1-3 that says to me as Christian if I curse Abraham and Israel the almighty God will curse me too. So, I am under an obligation, as a Christian, to love Israel, to pray for the peace of Jerusalem; which actually means the peace of Israel.”
Africa4Palestine has confirmed that a complaint has already been lodged with the JSC. Its director Muhammed Desai says the Chief Justice was supposed to avoid political controversies.
“The first is that judges are supposed to avoid entering into political controversies. This is a very clear article of the code of conduct. There is currently a matter dealing with Israel and Palestine that is in front of the Constitutional Court and even more problematic, the Chief Justice was a presiding judge during the hearing just a few weeks ago and so, this is a problem we are articulating in our complaint to the Judicial Services Commission.”
Legal expert Advocate Ben Winks believes that judges cannot be separated from their comments, even if it’s in their personal capacity.
“The Judicial Code of Conduct which Chief Justice Mogoeng delivered and published himself says that, among other things, judges must, not unless it’s necessary for the discharge of judicial office, become involved in any political controversy and this applies to their work within and outside the court because judges need to be seen to be beyond political controversies so that people of all political stripes can feel that they have a fair hearing before any judge of a South African Court.”
Political parties seem to be divided on the matter.
In a statement, the governing ANC said it is deeply concerned by Mogoeng’s remarks. It urged the Speaker of Parliament Thandi Modise to have “high-level talks with the Chief Justice.”
However, IFP’s Mkhuleko Hlengwa says Mogoeng has a right to express his views as a citizen.
“To have a knee-jerk reaction to the Chief Justice’s comments and analysis on the matter ,without taking in the fundamental issues which are important to the discourse that he is raising in its self is a myopic and ignorant view on the part of those who seek to attack the chief justice. We, therefore, fundamentally believe that South Africa coming out of its own history of apartheid should actually be a negotiator which brings constructive input in this matter.”
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) through a statement said there would not be a Chief Justice presiding over a democratic judiciary in the country if it were not for boycotts, disinvestment and sanctions against apartheid South Africa. The party called for Mogoeng to retract his statements.