Mogoeng apologises as ordered ‘because I am not above the law’

Former Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng

The rule of law — “one of the foundational values of our democratic state” — demands that all, including the Chief Justice, comply with lawful orders however much we might disagree with them. says former Chief Justice Mogoeng in a statement released today.

“Individually and together with my judicial colleagues, I have over the years made orders and expected all, including Presidents, to comply with them and they did. I am now forced by the law – the order of the lawfully constituted Appeal Panel of the Judicial Conduct Committee to apologise in terms of the prescribed apology,” he says in explanatory remarks regarding his response to a recent order by the panel.

“I hereby apologise as ordered: ‘I, Mogoeng Mogoeng, the former Chief Justice of the Republic of South Africa, hereby apologise unconditionally for becoming involved in political controversy through my utterances at the online seminar (webinar) hosted by the Jerusalem Post on 23 June 2020, in which I participated.'” he says at the end of his statement which he released on the last day of the 10-day apology deadline he was given by the panel.

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The recent 2-against-1 decision by the panel to dismiss Mogoeng’s appeal against findings and sanctions against him by the Judicial Conduct Committee were slammed as “shocking” and “biased” by the The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) South Africa branch and South African Friends of Israel (SAFI) who called on South Africans to pray for the former Chief Justice. The JCC findings against Mogoeng followed complaints brought by Africa 4 Palestine, the SA BDS Coalition and the Women’s Cultural Group.

In his full statement, which can be viewed here, Mogoeng notes that he was informed of the dismissal of his appeal “just before the dawn of day number 666 of the lockdown in our land”. He also highlights aspects of the panel’s findings for which he is grateful and clarifies the context of widely-reported remarks he made at a prayer meeting about his firm resolve to stand by his webinar comments despite demands for him to apologise.

After summarising the appeal panel’s decision, in which it set aside some of the JCC findings against him and upheld others, he says: “I am very thankful that: I have not been ordered to renounce God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and my faith in Him; I have not been ordered to renounce the Holy Bible; I have not been ordered to renounce prayer; and I have not been ordered to renounce my love for Israel and Palestine and my love for the Jews and the Palestinians as well as my love for all people. For I said during the webinar, as correctly quoted at para 122 of the decision of the Judicial Conduct Committee Appeal Panel: ‘Some possibly then expect of me to be very hateful of Israel and the Jews, I [am] not. I love [the] Jews, I love Israel. I love Palestine. I love the Palestinians. I love everybody.'”

Clarifying his prayer meeting remarks he says: “Did I say I will under no circumstances apologise? No. This is what I said at the prayer meeting as correctly quoted at para 89 of the Appeal Panel’s decision: ‘I would never refuse to apologise for or retract what I believe to be wrong, however correct I might have initially believed it to be. Even if it is a 10 years old child who would have helped me to so understand. I would apologise to him or her for the wrong I would then be convinced I have done to him or others. But, I will never apologise for or retract what I believe to be correct. I would never no matter how many millions, how many presumably or actually, influential people say so. I would never, unless forced by the law, align myself with principles or values repugnant to my sense of what is just, right or wrong. I would be happy to stand alone no matter the consequences. There is a tendency to follow the drowning voices that often dictate the narrative either without reflection, or for fear of massive reputational or positional or other conceivable damage. I would rather suffer the worst imaginable consequences than hypocritically apologise for what I don’t believe to be wrong-just to please those who think they have the right to demand and secure an apology or to avoid being labelled arrogant! 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.’

“The operative expression here is ‘unless forced by the law’. The Judicial Conduct Committee is a creature of statute – the law. Unless set aside, its orders are lawful.”

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