The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) South Africa branch and South African Friends of Israel (SAFI) have expressed shock at a judgment against former chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng by the Judicial Conduct Appeals Committee and have called on South Africans to pray for him.
“We are shocked at the biased judgement applied by the Judicial Conduct Commitee in response to our former Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng’s appeal against being forced to apologise for comments he made in support of Israel and his desire for a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said Vivienne Myburgh ICEJ national director SA in a statement.
In a 2-against-1 majority decision on Thursday the committee dismissed Mogoeng’s appeal against a finding by the Judicial Conduct Committee that he had involved himself in political controversy and ordered him to apologise within 10 days for remarks he made in a webinar hosted by the Jerusalem Post in June 2020.
The ICEJ statement says: “A petition with over 170 000 signatures, which is a representation, we believe of the majority of our nation’s Christian view in his support, was handed to the president’s office at the time of his appeal.
“It is a sad day for SA when a respected former chief justice is undermined for expressing his religious convictions in stating his love and prayers for Israel. What they are actually asking him to do is to apologise for the Word of God!
“We call upon our wider Christian family to pray for former Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and for a just resolution,” she said.
In its statement slamming the judgment against Mogoeng, Pamela Ngubane general manager of SAFI says they are “appalled” by the ruling that “seeks to censure and silence” the former chief justice “for remarks expressing his biblical love for Israel, alongside his calls for a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”.
The SAFI statement continues: “The former chief justice’s utterances were 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. This view was affirmed by the minority judgement that completely supported the former chief justice’s appeal and showed that he was not in contravention of the Judicial Code.
“Religious beliefs, and the freedom to express them, do not become controversial when a small and radical group of anti-Israel activists deem them to be. SAFI is dismayed that once again, as was the case under apartheid, religious rights are being undermined in our country.
“We are concerned that the outcome of this ruling will lead to a chilling effect on any public figure who wishes to show balanced support for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. This is particularly problematic in a country such as South Africa where the majority of the population is Christian and have ties to the Holy Land.
“SAFI supports the former Chief Justice’s expressed view that South Africa should be an example to the world in promoting the importance of negotiation, peace and co-existence. This view is not, and should not, be controversial. SAFI challenges those who seek to perpetuate the strife between Israel and Palestine by stoking the fires of conflict in our country to play a peaceful role.
“South Africa has so many challenges affecting its people including poverty, unemployment and economic hardship. We look forward to the blessing that a mutually respectful partnership with Israel can bring in the form of technology and innovation if a policy of engagement and co-operation could be undertaken. SAFI stands with former Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and calls on all South Africans to pray for him. #StandWithCJ #Pslam122:6
The appeal committee’s decision against Mogoeng has also been criticised by the ACDP, whose deputy president Wayne Thring said in a statement: “The ACDP is disappointed because we believe that the statements and utterances of the former chief justice were from a biblical view, to which the former CJ has the rights to freedom of expression as well as religious belief.
“We believe that the utterances made by former CJ Mogoeng Mogoeng were in alignment with his religious beliefs. We also believe that as a result of this decision, the former CJ must use his knowledge and his experience as a former chief justice to make the right decision without compromising his religious beliefs and conscience.”
In a minority decision last week, Judge Margaret Victor, disagreed with her two Judicial Conduct Appeal Committee colleagues, Judges Dumisani Zondi and Judge Nambitha Dambuza, who dismissed Mogoeng’s appeal. She wrote: “In my view, context is, indeed, everything, and Mogoeng CJ’s plea for peace and love among nations, in a broad and general sense, must be the context against which the impugned statements must be measured. Mogoeng CJ’s words were not calculated to support an anti-BDS campaign, nor were the words consistent with a Zionist notion of unequivocal support for Israel at the expense of Palestine and the struggle of Palestinians. On the contrary, on a careful scrutiny of the entire transcript of the webinar and the specific context within which the impugned statements were made, one garners merely a lesson in peace for both Israel and Palestine as well as all nations. Not more.”
“Muzzling Judges is a slippery path that leads away from, not towards, democracy, and it leads in a direction from which there may be no road back,” she wrote in the conclusion of her report.
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