Moseneke – guardian of our Con­sti­tu­tion

CityPress - - Voices -

There is an apoc­ryphal story in po­lit­i­cal cir­cles that tries to ex­plain the in­ex­pli­ca­ble snub­bing of newly re­tired Deputy Chief Jus­tice Dik­gang Moseneke for the job of chief jus­tice.

Those with knowl­edge of the dy­nam­ics of Robben Is­land say it goes back to pri­son days. As the youngest in­mate on the is­land, the 15-year-old Moseneke forged ahead with his high school ed­u­ca­tion as soon as he be­gan his sen­tence. Af­ter ma­tric­u­lat­ing, he con­tin­ued with his stud­ies, com­plet­ing a BA, a B Juris and even­tu­ally an LLB.

In a cell nearby was another young man who, in­stead of com­plet­ing his school­ing, spent his time play­ing board games. The older ANC pris­on­ers, so the story goes, kept us­ing the Pan African­ist Congress-af­fil­i­ated Moseneke as an ex­am­ple as they prod­ded Ja­cob Zuma to use his jail time pro­duc­tively. This riled Zuma to no end, and he re­mem­bered it when it was pay­back time.

The real rea­son is much sim­pler – and more sin­is­ter. As a law­maker, Moseneke’s ab­so­lute ad­her­ence to, and pub­lic pro­nounce­ments on, prin­ci­ple did not sit well with a post-Polok­wane Zuma ANC that was about to wield a base­ball bat at the law and con­sti­tu­tion­al­ism. The for­mer made the big mis­take of pub­licly stat­ing that judges would not be guided by pol­i­tics, but al­ways by the law and what is good for the peo­ple and the Con­sti­tu­tion that serves its cit­i­zens.

For this, he was pe­nalised by be­ing over­looked twice when his peers, the le­gal pro­fes­sion and the pub­lic could see he was the ob­vi­ous choice. It was a mean streak of pol­i­tics on the part of Zuma and those around him. But true to the great­ness of the man, Moseneke did not sulk. He con­tin­ued serv­ing South Africa from where he was, shap­ing ju­rispru­dence and en­sur­ing the apex court re­mained the guardian of our con­sti­tu­tional or­der.

As Moseneke ends his life of for­mal ser­vice this week, South Africa says thank you.

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