I am no particular supporter of Justice Mogoeng for the position of Chief Justice of South Africa, but I felt he was being unfairly treated by the media in the run-up to his JSC interview and expressed my views in the Mail & Guardian’s Readers’ Blog.
Reading the reports in the press during and after Mogoeng’s JSC interview had me wondering whether the journalists had been watching the same channel I had. Just about every newspaper in Johannesburg trumpeted the news that Mogoeng had said that God wanted him for the position of Chief Justice. Not one report I saw commented on precisely how he was led into making such a statement. Allow me:
One of the people sitting on the JSC was Koos van der Merwe, chief whip of the IFP. It was plain from the beginning of the process that he was exceptionally hostile to Justice Mogoeng. It was shortly after lunch on the first day when he had the unmitigated cheek to call Mogoeng unsuited for the office of Chief Justice because of a brief and minor spat that had taken place between Mogoeng and Deputy Chief Justice Moseneke. Van der Merwe accused Mogoeng of having a violent temper and said he had never seen anything like it in his life.
I say unmitigated cheek because this is the same man who called then Deputy Justice Minister Johnny de Lange a ‘poephol’ in parliament and refused to withdraw his remark. Chaos reigned as onse Kosie merrily fanned the flames of his provocative statement.
It’s also worth noting that this is the same sweetheart who was one of the founding members of the Conservative Party, and who once denounced P.W. Botha as a ‘bloody progressive’. Just the sort of person we want helping to decide who should be our next Chief Justice.
But entertaining though it is to poke fun at the … shall we say …. politically labile Koos, let’s get on with how exactly he put Justice Mogoeng into the untenable position of having to discuss his personal relationship with God.
In the course of the second day of gruelling questioning by the JSC, Koos van der Merwe asked Justice Mogoeng, and I quote, “Do you believe you have been picked by God to lead the Constitutional Court?”
Now, I ask you with tears in my eyes, what the FUCK was the poor guy meant to say to that? There was no way of answering that question without sounding like a delusional idiot. What should he have said? How about, “No, I don’t think God wants me for the job”, or “How in the name of arse am I supposed to know what God thinks?”
Instead he replied cautiously that he had prayed about the matter and believed he had received a sign that he should accept the nomination. Now, I’m sorry to tell you this, secularists, but people of faith do in fact pray. However unfashionable that may sound to your sophisticated ears, it remains true. And to trumpet the news all over the media that Justice Mogoeng believes he was chosen by God to be Chief Justice is not only incorrect, but grossly unfair too.
I don’t for a second believe that Justice Mogoeng is the best person for the job of Chief Justice, but having watched him comport himself gracefully and articulately in front of the JSC, I believe that, if his appointment stands, he will fill the job competently and with good intentions. I further believe he has grown in his understanding of and sensitivity to gender and sexual-orientation issues, and that he will be conscientious and unremitting in his efforts to uphold the constitution.
Since you ask, my first choice for Chief Justice would have been Sisi Khampepe, who is rumoured to have turned down the job. I would have loved to see a woman in the position, and moreover one who is both nobody’s fool and nobody’s puppet.