Whoever succeeds Mogoeng Mogoeng as Chief justice of the South African Constitutional Court has their work cut out for them.
The ground has shifted heavily since the appointment of the outgoing chief justice in 2011. Firstly, Jacob Zuma, who appointed Mogoeng, is no longer the president following a recall by the governing ANC. This same Zuma has just been paroled from prison after spending time for defying an order of the apex court to appear before a commission set up to probe corrupt activities that took place under his rule.
As things would turn out, the man who leads the commission — Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo — is shortlisted to replace Mogoeng. In terms of seniority and experience, Zondo is the most suitable candidate. But his reputation is sullied in the eyes of those aggrieved by his clashes with the former president.
However, if reputation was the main consideration for this post, Mogoeng himself would not have got the nod. He had pressure groups, assisted by large parts of the media, urging the Judicial Services Commission to disqualify him from the position citing the fact that he is an ordained pastor. Mogoeng was also accused of being lenient on rapists, which he denied.
Mogoeng did not make things easy for himself by claiming that God wanted him to be chief justice. And after his appointment, he continued to irk those who held to the idea that one’s religion should always remain a private matter. Things came to a head over Mogoeng’s much-publicised utterances on South Africa’s foreign policy towards Israel.
You could say that the outgoing chief justice cares less about political correctness than he does about his Christian principles and values. This is why seeing him vacate this position is hard for some Christians to swallow. As of today, there are seven nominees vying to replace Mogeong. Initially, there were eight but one of them, Dr Wallace Mgoqi pulled out, citing his age.
In his withdrawal letter, Mgoqi, who is the former city manager of the City of Cape Town and the former chief land claims commissioner on the restitution of land rights, referred to Andy Stanley book’s book, Better Decision, Fewer Regrets as being instrumental in helping him arrive at a decision to withdraw from the race.
I have stayed in Mgoqi’s house in Cape Town and also have been in church meetings with him. He and his wife are passionate followers of Christ and so are his adult children. It is no wonder he was nominated for this post, but clearly, God has other plans for him. I believe God also has plans for South Africa, despite the toxic influence of factional politics that threaten to tear the country apart.
The irony is that the appointment of the chief justice coincides with local government elections to be held on November 1. This is to say that there is a contestation now for political and judicial power, and to some people, the two are interconnected. In other words, there are interest groups whose tentacles have reached almost every major institution in the country except the judiciary.
Now, these groups are salivating as they see an opportunity to capture this arm of the state.They have seconded some candidates with a chequered past and service record to succeed Mogoeng for no other reason than to advance their political agenda. We can’t be blind to the fact that a politicised judiciary is a compromised judiciary. And for this reason, Christians should pray fervently that evil machinations and plans do not see the light of day.
The official nominees for the post of chief justice are Judge President John Hlophe, Justice Mbuyiseli Madlanga, Justice Mandisa Maya, Advocate. Busisiwe Mkhwebane, Judge President Dunstan Mlambo, Advocate Alan Nelson, SC and Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. More details on the appointment process are available on the The Presidency website.
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