By Al Qalam Reporter
There’s no way out! Constitutional Court Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng will just HAVE to apologise for publicly stating his support for Israel in direct contradiction to the policy of the South African Government that he represents, says Africa 4 Palestine’s chief, Muhammed Desai.
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has been directed by the Judicial Conduct Committee (JCC) to apologise unconditionally for “becoming involved in political controversy” through statements he made during an online webinar hosted by The Jerusalem Post in June 2020 and later at a prayer meeting.
But the South African Friends of Israel said it was appalled by the decision of the Judicial Conduct Committee (JCC) that found that Judge Moegoeng Mogoeng was wrong in supporting Israel while holding Government office.
“It cannot be that a few small but noisy and extremist groups have the last say on the beliefs and views of peace-loving South Africans,” it said in a statement.
The JCC ruling came after three organisations, Africa 4 Palestine, SA-Boycott Disinvestments and Sanctions Coalition and Women’s Cultural Group, laid complaints against him for contravening judicial ethical rules for participating in the webinar with Chief Rabbi of South Africa.
The matter was adjudicated by Judge Phineas Mojapelo of the Judicial Conduct Committee (JCC) who found that Judge Moegoeng Mogoeng was “brazenly defiant” in not apologizing after being ordered to so by the Judicial Conduct Committee.
According to Ground-Up, in his ruling, Judge Mojapelo said questions asked during the webinar required the Chief Justice to comment on matters concerning the diplomatic relationship between South Africa and Israel, which was “clearly political territory”.
He was asked to declare whether he agrees with the foreign policy of his country towards Israel.
Judge Mojapelo said at the time that the Chief Justice made the utterances, he had been fully aware of South Africa’s foreign policy position on the Israel-Palestine conflict and yet he had criticized it and suggested what should be changed.
“There is no scope to argue that his conduct was not willful or grossly negligent,” wrote Mojapelo.
What aggravated the matter was the comment he made when called upon to retract what he had said at the webinar. At a later prayer meeting, he refused, saying there was nothing to apologise for.
Even in his response to the Judicial Conduct Committee, he repeated: “I stand by my refusal to retract or apologise for any part of what I said during the webinar. Even if 50 million people were to march every day for ten years for me to do so, I would not apologise. If I perish, I perish.”
Judge Mojapelo said he repeated these words at a time when he was aware that the committee had been investigating the complaints for three months.
“It was an opportunity for him, as leader of the judiciary to publicly declare his confidence in the statutory processes of the committee. His statement did the opposite, exuding a self-righteous view that he would only apologise if he believed himself to be wrong.
Judge Mojapelo said it appeared that the Chief Justice was being “brazenly defiant” and it was important, in order to maintain the public image of the judiciary to its rightful place that he be ordered to apologise and retract what he said at the webinar and the prayer meeting.
Judge Moegoeng Moegoeng will appeal the decision by the (JCC). A date is yet to be set.
In a statement: the Coalition said: “The Chief Justice of the Republic of South Africa, Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has signified his intention to appeal the decision made by Mojapelo DJP, a member of the Judicial Conduct Committee (JCC) in the complaints lodged by Africa4Palestine, SABDS Coalition, and the Women’s Cultural Group.
But Africa 4 Palestine’s Muhammed Desai is adamant that Judge Mogoeng Moegoeng will have to apologise.
“Africa 4 Palestine is shocked that the chief justice has chosen to disregard the decision by the senior member of the judiciary, Deputy Judge President Mojapelo.
“However, he is within his right to appeal this decision and we are led to understand that our legal representative that Africa 4 Palestine is the first complainant will be afforded the opportunity to make representation. We look forward to making the presentation to the appeal process, and we look forward to eventually having that apology from chief justice, because we do believe that our case is rock solid.”
But the South African Friends of Israel said they were “appalled” by the recent decision by the Judicial Conduct Committee (JCC) as it set to censure and silence Mogoeng.
“The Chief Justice’s remarks are legitimate, fair and non-controversial. They were made in accordance with his deeply held religious beliefs which are protected under the South African Constitution, alongside the Judicial Code which regulates judicial conduct. Religious beliefs, and the freedom to express them, do not suddenly become controversial when a small and radical group of anti-Israel activists deem them to be,” they said.