By Lehlohonolo Lehana.
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng lodged his appeal on Saturday against the Judicial Conduct Committee’s finding of misconduct, and its directive that he must apologise for his public comments on SA’s foreign policy on Israel.
The JCC decision was the first time in SA’s democratic history that a chief justice was found to have committed misconduct.
In a blistering rebuke, retired Gauteng deputy judge president Phineas Mojapelo said Mogoeng breached the code of judicial conduct by becoming involved in political controversy or activity and lending the prestige of judicial office to advance his private interests or the private interests of others.
Mogoeng’s comments were made during a webinar hosted by The Jerusalem Post. Asked by editor Yakoov Katz about the sometimes “tense diplomatic relations” between SA and Israel, Mogoeng said while he considered himself bound by SA’s policy positions, as a citizen he was also entitled to his views.
After quoting the Bible, he said "as a Christian" he had to "love and pray for Israel because I know hatred for Israel by me and for my nation will — can only — attract unprecedented curses upon our nation".
He said despite neocolonialism, which was still causing suffering to Africans, SA had not cut ties with or disinvested from its former colonisers, and its position needed reflection.
Mogoeng was directed to "unreservedly retract" his subsequent statement: "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."
He was directed to do so within 10 days. On the day of that deadline, on March 14, the JCC secretariat said in a statement that the chief justice had "signified his intention" to appeal.
The deadline for Mogoeng's appeal was Sunday, and it his 39-page affidavit was filed on Saturday but signed and dated on Friday.