“I sense very strongly that God is about to do something unprecedented in this nation,” said South Africa’s former chief justice, Mogoeng Mogoeng in a telephonic interview with Gateway News this week
In our conversation just days after he had apologised publicly for comments he made about Israel, he shared about his extraordinary 10 years at the head of the judiciary, as well as about the pain and the beauty of committing to a life of radical obedience to God’s will, his next Kingdom assignment, his response to calls for him to run for president, and his understanding of God’s plans for the nation.
Asked to comment on a remark by Judge Margaret Victor that muzzling judges leads away from democracy, he said he would prefer not to critique the findings of the judges involved in dealing with the complaint against him for remarks he made during a webinar hosted by the Jerusalem Post in 2020. Judge Victor made her muzzling comment in a minority decision in the 2-to-1 split decision by the Judicial Conduct Appeals Committee which upheld a finding that Mogoeng had involved himself in political controversy and ordered him to apologise for comments he made in support of Israel and for a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Mogoeng told Gateway News that he advises “anybody who really wants to know what is going on here” to listen to the full Jerusalem Post webinar, to read the complaints submitted against him by pro-Palestinian groups as well as his responses to the complaints, and to read the judgments of Judicial Conduct Committee judge, Judge Phineas Mojapelo and the three appeal committee judges. These as well as the apology he crafted speak for themselves, he said. “I would rather everyone does that and makes up their own minds.”
He said the support of his wife Mmaphefo and an “army” of prayer warriors in South Africa and beyond – and in particular a powerful and humbling prayer experience in which he appeared before the “Court of Heaven” – all helped him to stand strong through the gruelling personal legal battle at the end of his term.
In fact, he said his whole journey since he was nominated to the Constitutional Court until now had prepared him for the many testing times that followed and continued right up until the present. “My children were exposed to my 2009 [Judicial Service Commission] interview, which was very, very difficult. The post-interview period when I first went to the Constitutional Court, was the most difficult that any judge in this country has ever gone through. And it became even worse, during my nomination for a chief justiceship – during the interview process, and even after my appointment. I believe the Lord allowed all of that, in preparation for what would happen to me and to us from then, until now.”
During the interview the topic of obedience came up a lot – even in a surprising way regarding Mogoeng becoming Chief Justice in 2011.
“I don’t want to be misunderstood as someone who has always been pursuing some political office, for I have never pursued anything. I just do what the Lord wants me to do at a particular time,” he said.
Wrestling with God
But he said being obedient to God’s assignments does not come without pain and wrestling with the Lord. And such was the case when God initially told him on several occasions that He wanted him to be the next Chief Justice.
Mogoeng, who as the most junior member of the Constitutional Court was an unlikely candidate for the position, said he told God: “Lord, You know what the people will say. There are many people out there who are hungry for this position, and I am not hungry for it. Can’t you allow somebody else to have it?”
He fasted, prayed and cried out to God to release him from the burden. But he was nominated and as his JSC interview approached, he said: “All manner of lies were being spewed out against me. I said, Lord, I don’t need this. I don’t care about positions. Why are you doing this to me?
“He said: ‘It’s an assignment, take it.’ And I did. So, I thank the Lord for what He allowed me to go through.
Mogoeng cited other times when he had wrestled with God over challenging divine assignments, such as when He told him to lead prayer in an unprecedented way during the swearing in of the sixth democratic Parliament. As usual, after initial resistance to God’s will, he dropped to his knees and prayed for Parliament and the nation – an act which earned the special thanks of President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Mogoeng told Gateway News that seeking God’s face in prayer and asking Him to reveal His specific will for him is a vital part of his day-to-day life and a key to pursuing a life of radical obedience. Prayer is hard work, he says, but it is essential.
“I don’t know where I would be in my assignment for the Lord, if it had not been for daily prayer, and fasting from time to time. I think my enemies would have cleaned me out a long time ago.”
“The beauty. of obedience,” said Mogoeng, “is knowing that you do not belong to yourself, you are just an instrument. And when a glorious result emerges, you will surely give glory to the one who deserves it. And that is the Lord.”
“A crazy man”
He said many people – “even children of God” – don’t understand his commitment to obey God even when it looks costly. “In fact, many probably think I am just a crazy man trying to look for significance the wrong way. It’s never happened before for a chief justice, to go out of his way to proclaim His faith the way I do. It sounds crazy. It seems like I have lost it – like I am this irrational madman.”
“But I’ve travelled a long way with this God. At times when people wrote me off, I chose to obey Him. Look where we are.
“I started out a serious minus. And people thought it was just a matter of time, before my idiocy and incompetence would be laid bare for all to see. Well, on the contrary, developments subsequent to my appointment [as chief justice], have pointed to something fundamentally different from what I was made out to be. Why? It’s obedience to God?
“I don’t think those who wrote me off as a lackey of President Zuma [who appointed Mogoeng as Chief Justice] and an idiot can comprehend what has happened. That is why anything I say attracts the attention of the thought leaders out there: ‘How can we attack him? How can we criticise him?’ Because what I say, does, by the grace of God, matter – because God is in the equation.”
Describing himself as just an ordinary man from a village who God lifted up, he said: “I can’t explain what has happened, except that it is the mercy and the grace of the Almighty God.
“I think it is a profound lesson to me, and to all people, that if only we can throw away our smartness, or our own perception of how greatness can be achieved – what we need to do in order to fulfill our destiny. We should just lean on God, trusting in God all the time. Much more will be accomplished in our lives.”
In October last year, Mogoeng retired, after completing his full, statutory 10-year term as chief justice – the longest stint of any chief justice since 1994. He took long leave during his last months in office and embarked upon a countrywide speaking tour from September to November in which he addressed a “message to the nation” at each venue. A call to believers to prepare for “the greatest revival the world has ever seen” by warring in prayer over prophetic words spoken over SA, was a recurring theme of his message. I asked him about his main takeaway from his national road trip – and the topic of obedience came up again.
“Let me first explain how it [the speaking tour] came about,” he said. “It was not something I just decided to embark upon.The Lord spoke. He said: ‘Tell my people what message I have for them The message of hope, the message of healing, the message of reformation and restoration.
“Go and tell my people what I say, not what you say or think. And that is how this whole process began.”
Mogoeng said he was moved by the mighty – sometimes overwhelming – way that God’s presence manifested at each stop on the tour
Reconnecting with Hope
“I found people encouraged – reconnecting with the Hope that the Lord released.”
He said that “a strong message” that he discerned from testimonies that people shared about how God was moving in their lives is of a growing unity in the nation across tribal and racial lines.
He said the road trip gave him more insight into God’s plans for SA. In this regard God even spoke mightily through people who were not learned.
“I believe that there is more to be released. But from each and every meeting there was a new nuance to help us understand where God is taking us.”
Asked about his life now, several months after his tour, he said it comprises much prayer – with fellow Christians and on his own – caring for animals on his farm, enjoying the natural, healthy environment and the opportunity to spend more time connecting with his wife and children.
But he said he knows that the Lord has a national assignment for him and a constant refrain in his prayers is: “Lord, I don’t want to lean on my own understanding. I want to know exactly what you want me to do this week, this month.
“I don’t want to miss out. I sense very strongly that God is about to do something unprecedented in this nation.”
God’s plans for SA
During our conversation Mogoeng shared on what he believes are some of the things God is wanting to do in SA. These include ending oppression and judging oppressors, reviving the family unit which has been under relentless attack, uniting the remnant of the Body of Christ, and fulfilling prophecies concerning SA, Africa and the nations of the earth. “If only we who know Him [God] will cry unto Him for intervention,” he said.
On the topic of the great revival that he spoke of in his speaking tour, he said: “The greatest revival in the history of the earth will start here with a mighty salvation of souls, healing on a large scale and miracles all round.”
He likened the corruption and social problems that abound in SA now to “the last kicks of a dying horse”.
“There will be massive wealth transfer – abundant supernatural provision to God’s children. I am very optimistic.The Lord is moving and everyone whether you are a believer in Christ or not will get to enjoy what our land is endowed with and share in the benefits. It is very close, very near, almost tangible.”
I asked the former chief Justice his response to requests he has received – most recently from a group called the Independent Citizen’s Movement – for him to run as president in 2024.
Mogoeng acknowledged that he has encountered such requests and suggestions over the years – even as far back as 2015 or 2016 when he was addressing a gathering of religious leaders in the United States.
“And my response has been, I am ready, I am willing to do whatever the Lord wants me to do,” he said.
Then he added an intriguing twist to the presidential question by saying: “What I have never told the people is what it is that the Lord has said to me concerning this matter. I know what the Lord’s position is regarding this matter, but I’m not going to share because it could be misunderstood.”
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