Chief Justice Mogoeng ordered to retract pro-Israel comments

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng

Chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has been ordered to apologise for, and retract, pro-Israel comments he made during a webinar in June last year.

The Judicial Conduct Committee (JCC) found Mogoeng guilty and ordered him to apologise unconditionally for becoming involved in political controversy through his remarks in the online seminar hosted by The Jerusalem Post on June 23 last year.

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Africa 4 Palestine, a pro-Palestine SA organisation former known as BDS South Africa, laid a complaint about Mogoeng’s comments.

Prayer conference
The committee further ordered Mogoeng to unreservedly retract and withdraw a statement he made on July 3 during an Africa-wide online prayer conference held in support of his right to speak his mind as a Christian. At that time, after emphasising the biblical basis of his webinar remarks and his message of love for all people, he said he would not retract or apologise for his words — “Even if 50 million people can march every day for the next 10 years, for me to retract and apologise for what I said — I will not do it.”

Petition
Christian and Jewish groups quickly came to Mogoeng’s defence after he came under attack from the ANC and anti-Israel groups following the webinar. A petition posted by pro-Israel Christian organisations, calling on President Cyril Ramaphosa to support Mogoeng’s Constitutional right to freedom of speech and freedom of religion has garnered over 95 000 signatures.

During the controversial webinar last June Mogoeng lamented that the South African government’s adoption of a lopsided attitude toward the Israel-Palestinian conflict which denied it the opportunity to have greater influence in helping to broker peace in the region. He also stated that as a Christian he loved the Jews and Israel, and he loved the Palestinians and Palestine.

Thought police
In an op-ed article in July, Freedom of Religion South Africa wrote: “In conclusion, whether or not we agree with the CJ’s personal beliefs or statements made during the recent webinar, we should all be worried about the current attack on him. It is clear, from a political point of view, that the issue is not so much whether or not the CJ acted improperly by commenting on a political controversial issue, as it is a blatant attempt to (at the highest level) silence speech which is perceived to be ‘politically incorrect’. And if the ‘thought police’ will not hesitate to go after the CJ, they will certainly not hesitate to go after “ordinary citizens” like you and me.

“The fundamental rights to freedom of religion, belief and opinion (section 15), and also to freely give expression thereto (section 16), are vital to any constitutional democracy. When these are eroded or taken away, democracy is no longer worth the name. For this reason, it is puzzling that organisations such as the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution (CASAC), who according to their founding statement ‘seeks to advance the SA Constitution as the platform for democratic politics and the transformation of society’ and ’embraces the contestation of ideas’, has sided with the CJ’s critics on this issue. It seems that, in South Africa, some ideas are more equal than others after all.

The JCC has said Mogoeng has to apologise within the next 10 days at a meeting of serving justices of the Constitutional Court, and release a copy of the apology under his signature to the office of the chief justice and to the media in the normal manner in which the Constitutional Court and the OCJ issue media releases.

While the committee dismissed a complaint that Mogoeng should have recused himself from the webinar, it found that he became involved in political controversy or activity, and therefore breached the code of conduct.

According to the commission, further complaints established about Mogoeng arising from his utterance at the same webinar were:

  • “Contravention of the Code: the use or lending of the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interest of the judge or others;
  • “Contravention of Article 14 (1): judicial duties to take precedence over other duties and activities, statutory or others — read with Note 14(i) of the Code: failure to minimise the risk of conflict with judicial obligations, and involving himself in extrajudicial activities that impinge on a judge’s availability to perform judicial obligations;
  • “Involvement in extrajudicial activities which are incompatible with the confidence in and the impartiality of judges; and
  • “Failure to respect the separation of power in contravention of the Code.”  

The committee said that in considering appropriate remedial action under section 17(8) of the JSC Act, it took into consideration the nature of the contravention, the position of the respondent in the judiciary, the circumstances in which the judicial misconduct arose and the public interest within the broad legal framework as defined by the constitution, the law and the rules of ethics.

“Within that framework, the South African judiciary is and must remain one which does not unduly involve itself in political controversy. It does not use or lend the prestige of judicial office to advance any private interests, whether of its individual members or others.

“It jealously guards its independence, impartiality and public confidence in the courts and respects the separation of power (where appropriate) and justly demands of the other organs of the state to fulfil their constitutional obligations in terms of section 165(4) of the constitution,” it said.

The committee said the more the members of the judiciary complied with its own constitutional, legal and ethical obligations, the greater the public confidence it attracted.

The committee said Mogoeng’s apology should read:

“Apology and Retraction

“I, Mogoeng Mogoeng, Chief Justice of the Republic of South Africa, hereby apologise unconditionally for becoming involved in political controversy through my utterances in the online seminar (webinar) hosted by The Jerusalem Post on 23 June 2020, in which I participated.

“I further hereby unreservedly retract and withdraw the following statement which I uttered subsequent thereto or other words to the same effect: “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 10 years for me to do so, I would not apologise. If I perish, I perish.

“I reaffirm my recognition for the statutory authority of the Judicial Conduct Committee of the Judicial Service Commission established in terms of Part 11 of the JSC Act 9 of 1994 to decide on any complaint of alleged judicial misconduct against me and all judges in the Republic of South Africa.”

An intercessor source close to Mogoeng told Gateway News this evening that they were currently in a time of consecration and were “seeking the face of the Lord even about this” and that the chief justice “will do what the Lord tells him to do”.

Mogoeng is democratic South Africa’s longest-serving chief justice. He was appointed in September 2011 and is due to complete his 10-year term this year.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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16 Comments

  1. He should not retract. It puts a serious restriction on our freedom of speech

  2. Don’t retract your statement Chief Justice Mogoeng. We can’t be bullied by an hostile religion that is against Jews and Christians. We stand in solidarity with Israel because it’s based on our BIBLE and not a political view or views

    • For those who believe that the CJ broke his Oath and Code of Conduct, this is what he, apparently, had to say :
      “The Israeli-Palestine politics or issues are not an integral part of South African politics … They are peripheral and not inherently South African in character, although they deserve the attention of South Africa,” he responded to the complaints.

      Mogoeng told Mojapelo that the code did not forbid the involvement of a member of the judiciary in extra-judicial activities including those embodied in the rights as citizens subject to certain qualifications.”

      ‘The saga continues’.

  3. This apology and retraction goes against our constitutional right to freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

  4. Jessica Bowring

    The JCC should be dealing with a lying and corrupt judge, we should all know by now who that is, and leave Godly me like MM alone. May God protect him and keep him safe.

  5. I eagerly await a response from the Chief Justice.

  6. Chief Justice Sir – you cannot possibly retract your comments. Please DO NOT be like the prophets who prophesied Donald Trump’s return to the White House, and then the moment the evil one shows up – they retract their prophecies, showing the entire Christian world how weak they really are. If God REALLY spoke to them and REALLY told them that Trump would have another term, what right have they to retract His Words that they heard and repeated? Biden might be ‘in’ for the moment, but at not yet 8 weeks he is weakening. Trump will still return to the White House, just as they originally said he would. God’s Words will never fail – but mankind’s will. Your words Sir, have been recorded in heaven – it is an utter impossibility for you to retract them now, even if you wanted to, which we all know you have absolutely no intention of doing. Every true believer in South Africa is with you, Sir. And many other parts of the world as well.

  7. Dear Judge MM,As one of those believers that stands for Biblical truth,we salute your courage under fire.Never take one step back.You spoke the truth and these weaklings couldnt take it.They know we cannot lose because you merely quoted Scripture,and the devil got anxious because you reminder him of his future.These are the last days ,so also the seperation of the goats and the sheep.We pray that your Faith will not fail.Youre one of my faith heroes.God Bless you

  8. The Israeli-Palestine issue is very divisive and controversial, with genuine Christians on both sides. Most of the Comments already received endorse Mogoeng’s pro-Israel stance.

    But Scripture shows that God Himself sometimes supported Israel (Genesis 12:2,3; Isaiah 49:8-12), and at other times supported Israel’s enemies (Isaiah 29:1-3; 39:5-7; Jeremiah 25:8-11). So any support for either side in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is controversial. It is this that is at the heart of the current Mogoeng saga. “(Mogoeng) became involved in political controversy or activity, and therefore breached the code of conduct.”

    When Mogoeng took the office of Chief Justice, he implicitly gave up his right to complete Freedom of Speech, by agreeing not to use his office for “political controversy or activity” as prescribed by the Code of Conduct.

    Why is this Code so important? It protects the public “confidence in and the impartiality of judges”. Such confidence is absolutely necessary if we are to preserve the Rule of Law in SA. If it is known that a Judge is biased in favour of one side or the other, then he cannot be trusted to be objective in any judgement he gives in disputes regarding such matters. And every one of us wants to trust the judgements of the Chief Justice.

    Mogoeng’s own integrity is at stake: He took an oath that included support of this Code of Conduct. He has breached this oath. His reputational Integrity is at stake.

    He would be wise to apologise for this public breach of the Code. But he need not apologise for his personal and private support of Israel. He should rather emphasise his even-handed statement: “He also stated that as a Christian he loved the Jews and Israel, and he loved the Palestinians and Palestine.”

    • Maduo wa Motlodiwa

      Does the CJ still have to retract and apologize, even though he said he “loves Palestine and Palestinians”?
      There is no HATE in that statement.
      So, the CJ was not aware that his speech was “political controversy or activity “?
      Where does Freedom of Religion feature there?
      I am confused.

    • So , Mr Wetmore ..
      Would you rather bow your knee to Baal ? do you not now ? The priests and rabby’s wanted to stone our King Jesus, because He told them their wickedness.. They also told Peter not to speak in His name again… They stood bold and just did the opposite, in the name of Jesus , our King Superior !!!

  9. Jenny and Alan Armstrong

    We have free speech in this country. Chief Justice has a human right to have his point of view. Isreal is being unfairly demonised by a group with a polical agends

  10. I agree totally with Hugh. He DID breach the code he signed n therefore must apologize. We must not become like Zuma supporters n shout shout support for him just because we like him.

  11. I agree with him

  12. Be bold and stay strong, Jesus was nailed to the cross because he spoke openly against the wrong… Stay with your statement , do not give in, God be with you CJ Mogoeng !!! God says in His Word ; I will bless those who bless you, curse those who curse you , as being ISRAEL … God will bless you in Jesus name, Sir !!

  13. Thank you, Lodewyk, for your strong stand for Jesus. I concur fully with your call to stand strong for Jesus. But Mogoeng was standing strong for the present political nation of Israel, and that’s not the same as standing strong for Jesus. He was assuming that all Israel was on Jesus’ side. Go to Israel, ask around, and you will find that only very few Israelis are trusting in Jesus. Paul says “A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly. A man is only a Jew if he is circumcised by the Spirit”. (Romans 2:28,29) The present nation of Israel has not, by the Holy Spirit, embraced by faith ‘Jesus is Lord, their Messiah’.

    Yes, as you say, “God will bless Mogoeng in Jesus’ name”. Not in Abraham’s name, not in Israel’s name. For it was through the descendant of Abraham – the Lord Jesus Messiah – that “all peoples on earth will be blessed” Genesis 12:3. And God still “holds out His hands to the disobedient and obstinate people of Israel” (Romans 10:21) as we “pray to God for the Israelites that they may be saved” (Romans 10:1). I plead with you, Lodewyk, and the many who think as you do, please do not imagine that the present State of Israel is enjoying God’s saving favour while it is still disobeying the Gospel of Jesus Messiah. This is a false gospel (Acts 4:12; Galatians 1:6-10). Test yourselves with this question: Does the blessing of God rest on an Israeli who trusts in the law of Moses, or on a Palestinian who trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ? The answer is in Galatians 3:26-29 “… if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”