TRIB­UTES TO Dik­gang Moseneke

Hav­ing hung up his robe on Fri­day, the deputy chief jus­tice leaves a ju­di­ciary strength­ened by his ex­em­plary ser­vice, bril­liant le­gal mind and fearless out­spo­ken­ness on in­jus­tice

CityPress - - Front Page - Peter Vundla voices@city­press.co.za

About two weeks ago, I put a call through to Dik­gang Moseneke, the out­go­ing deputy chief jus­tice, want­ing to as­cer­tain his where­abouts and avail­abil­ity for a lunch. With­out much thought, I heard my­self ask if he was now “in between jobs”! His re­sponse was a loud chuckle. He in­di­cated that he was at his desk at the Con­sti­tu­tional Court and had three weeks left be­fore he hung up his robe (Fri­day marked his last day in of­fice).

My friend­ship with Dik­gang spans many years. But it came into sharp pub­lic fo­cus eight years ago, when we had a joint 60th birth­day party on KwaZu­luNatal’s north coast.

It was on this oc­ca­sion that Dik­gang made the seem­ingly in­nocu­ous state­ment that “it is not what the ANC wants, or the del­e­gates some­where; it is about what the peo­ple want, ul­ti­mately”. This was a dec­la­ra­tion of ju­di­cial in­de­pen­dence.

As has been said by others, Dik­gang is a se­ri­ous man. I thought his speech was rather earnest for a birth­day party, and he tried to make light of the mo­ment by in­ter­spers­ing drum­rolls between com­ments. This at­tempt did noth­ing to pre­vent the dec­la­ra­tion re­ver­ber­at­ing across the coun­try, es­pe­cially among the Ja­cob Zuma lot, in­tox­i­cated by their Pyrrhic vic­tory in Polok­wane.

It is now an open se­cret that, as a re­sult of that speech, Dik­gang was over­looked – not once, but twice – as chief jus­tice of the Repub­lic by a petty and petu­lant regime. That he con­tin­ued to serve as deputy chief jus­tice is a mea­sure of the man, ris­ing above the lesser men who placed party pol­i­tics above what is good for the coun­try.

The Zuma years can best be de­scribed as a pe­riod of crisis af­ter crisis of lead­er­ship. Th­ese are partly char­ac­terised by the ju­nior­i­sa­tion of our pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions. Pres­i­dent Zuma has no re­la­tion­ship with ex­cel­lence. Nei­ther has the quiv­er­ing and ob­se­quious lot that sur­rounds him.

But one in­sti­tu­tion – and there are others – that has shown ex­em­plary lead­er­ship is the Con­sti­tu­tional Court, and a lead­ing light in that court was none other than Dik­gang. Darn good thing he did not sulk at hav­ing been over­looked.

Few peo­ple have the for­tune of hav­ing a per­son­al­ity suited to their job; even fewer have a pub­lic per­sona that mir­rors their pri­vate life. What con­sti­tutes a good judge is con­so­nant with Dik­gang’s char­ac­ter and the man­ner in which he con­ducts him­self. This speaks vol­umes about his in­tegrity and eth­i­cal con­duct.

Nev­er­the­less, it re­quires more than suit­able qual­i­fi­ca­tions and ex­pe­ri­ence to be a good judge. Bril­liance, too, is in­suf­fi­cient. Jane W Nelson of the Na­tional Ju­di­cial Col­lege in the US makes men­tion of the fol­low­ing qual­i­ties that dis­tin­guish a judge as out­stand­ing: a com­mit­ment to im­par­tial­ity, to the ju­di­cial pro­fes­sion and to jus­tice – “to serve jus­tice”, as Nelson puts it. Add to the lat­ter Dik­gang’s deep love for law.

His per­sonal qual­i­ties con­trib­ute just as much to his emi­nence as a judge. He has a nat­u­ral ju­di­cial tem­per­a­ment, even when de­ter­min­ing the make-up of a golf fourball. He is a good lis­tener, to the point of pa­tiently ad­mit­ting in­ter­rup­tions. In his in­ter­ac­tions with all and sundry – friends or waiters, cad­dies or fam­ily – Dik­gang is kind yet firm, and al­ways open­minded. He is the true gentle­man.

When Dik­gang was ap­pointed as a judge, he un­der­stood that he was “pro­moted be­yond the plea­sures of life”. This ex­pres­sion would form part of our ban­ter on the golf course.

Through­out his ca­reer, his per­sonal con­duct has been as­sid­u­ously free of in­dis­cre­tions. He es­chews fa­mil­iar­ity with cor­po­rates or in­di­vid­u­als which may one day stand be­fore him in a court of law. He would not want to re­cuse him­self for as­so­ci­at­ing with mis­cre­ants, and is hardly seen in our news­pa­pers’ so­cial pages.

But it is Digkang’s world-view that at­tracts me most to him, his abil­ity to bring his life ex­pe­ri­ences into a broader un­der­stand­ing of the hu­man con­di­tion. It is this un­der­stand­ing that en­sured he was al­ways con­scious about how his court rul­ings would af­fect so­ci­ety.

As Dik­gang hangs up his robe, let us re­mind him that there are books to read, places to travel to, gar­dens to be weeded, grand­chil­dren to be cud­dled and many other joys of re­tire­ment. But why do I have this needling sus­pi­cion that he is between jobs? Per­haps be­cause Dik­gang does not do re­tire­ment. Vundla is a busi­ness­man. His au­to­bi­og­ra­phy is ti­tled

Do­ing Time. Moseneke is his best bra

PHOTO: LER­ATO MADUNA

JUS­TICE SERVED From left: Jus­tice Zak Ya­coob, Min­is­ter of Fi­nance Pravin Gord­han, Chief Jus­tice Mo­go­eng Mo­go­eng and Deputy Chief Jus­tice Dik­gang Moseneke at the Con­sti­tu­tional Court in Braam­fontein in this file pic­ture

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