CityPress - - Front Page - Ed­win Cameron voices@city­press.co.za

Dume­lang, baGolo! Puo ena e tla ba ka Setswana! The first thing to say about Deputy Chief Jus­tice Dik­gang Moseneke, holder of mul­ti­ple po­si­tions of hon­our, awards, de­grees and ti­tles, is not about his ex­tra­or­di­nary po­lit­i­cal his­tory, his dis­tinc­tion as a judge or his sur­pass­ing hu­man­ity.

The first thing to say about him is that he is by far the hand­somest mem­ber of the Con­sti­tu­tional Court. Not only is he the hand­somest per­son in the court, but in­clud­ing fel­low judges, law clerks and staff, he is also the best dressed, most so­phis­ti­cated, best trav­elled, and most pol­ished and ur­bane.

Even the chief jus­tice ac­knowl­edges this. In fact, he fre­quently refers to Dik­gang’s pro­fi­ciency in the looks de­part­ment when we meet pri­vately at lunches and con­fer­ences. I ex­pected the chief jus­tice to make a point of this on Fri­day in court, when he de­liv­ered the for­mal ad­dress to mark Dik­gang’s re­tire­ment from the court.

This most sur­pass­ing im­por­tant as­pect of Dik­gang does not pass by un­no­ticed. He has an un­set­tling habit. He refers to im­por­tant cases that he thinks this court should hear in th­ese terms: “This case,” he will say, “re­ally gets my juices go­ing.”

When I joined the court in Jan­uary 2009, my first law clerk, Nick Fer­reira, as­sured me that when Dik­gang sent out an email stat­ing that a par­tic­u­lar case “got his juices go­ing”, at least half the fe­male law clerks fainted. If that sounds sex­ist, may I as­sure you that Dik­gang’s at­trac­tions are not con­fined to the op­po­site sex.

At my book launch in the court’s foyer two years ago, in wel­com­ing the crowd, he more or less im­plied – or per­haps he ac­tu­ally stated! – that I had made a move on him. I de­nied it then, and I deny it now.

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma this week de­nied in Par­lia­ment that he has any knowl­edge of the Gupta fam­ily’s busi­ness deal­ings. I, equally, deny that I have any knowl­edge of, or re­spon­sive­ness to, Dik­gang’s mys­tique and at­trac­tions.

Dik­gang was ap­pointed to this court by then pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki on Novem­ber 29 2002. He com­pleted his high court work and started here in Jan­uary 2003 – 14 years and six months ago.

Con­tin­u­ing his ser­vice as a high court judge, he has come to the limit of his con­sti­tu­tion­ally pre­scribed max­i­mum term, which ends to­day.

Th­ese have been long, rich years of achieve­ment and im­pact. The im­pact does not lie only in Dik­gang’s sig­nif­i­cant judg­ment to­tal (which, in­clud­ing main judg­ments, con­cur­rences and dis­sents, runs to 50). It also lies in the depth of in­tel­lect, lawyer­li­ness, hu­man­ity, sense of jus­tice and ver­bal magic that he has brought to this ju­di­cial out­put.

Dik­gang’s jour­ney from im­pris­on­ment as a young teenager to be­ing one of the fore­most fig­ures in our democ­racy, was mov­ingly traced re­cently in an eNCA doc­u­men­tary that fea­tured his mother, Mme Karabo Moseneke.

I will not re­count the de­tails now. Enough to say that this is a jour­ney that equipped him in com­mit­ment, in fi­delity to the demo­cratic strug­gle, and in coura­geous en­durance to hold with dis­tinc­tion any of­fice in the democ­racy for which he gave so un­spar­ingly of his life.

But many peo­ple, with some­thing like Dik­gang’s strug­gle pedi­gree, have stum­bled at the wa­ters of temp­ta­tion, and fallen in the fields of dal­liance and di­ver­sion. Not Dik­gang. The com­mit­ment that the 14-year-old or­gan­iser of an­ti­a­partheid may­hem showed 50 years ago is that same com­mit­ment that this re­fined, large­spir­ited, gen­er­ous, in­tel­lec­tu­ally com­mand­ing man still shows to­day.

Our court will be enor­mously poorer when he con­cludes his last day. All too of­ten, on piv­otal is­sues frac­tiously de­bated between us, we re­ally were await­ing Dik­gang’s entry into the de­bate. Al­most al­ways, his in­ter­ven­tion was pow­er­ful, in­sight­ful, au­thor­i­ta­tive and con­clu­sive. His in­flu­ence in the court was such that he alone was worth three or four or even five votes in the court.

Soon af­ter I ar­rived, I dubbed Dik­gang the “golden heart of the court”.

The court’s feel­ing for jus­tice, its com­mit­ment to eq­uity and its striv­ing to af­ford those lit­i­gat­ing be­fore it dig­nity and equal­ity, coursed through his veins and ar­ter­ies to en­rich the lifeblood of all our in­sights and out­puts and judg­ments.

On Dik­gang’s de­par­ture, one can­not fail to men­tion Chief Jus­tice Mo­go­eng Mo­go­eng.

Mo­go­eng be­came chief jus­tice in Septem­ber 2011 in dra­matinged cir­cum­stances that were chal­leng­ing to him and to Dik­gang.

Re­mark­ably – ex­traor­di­nar­ily – and most for­tu­nately for our coun­try, th­ese two peo­ple recog­nised the sit­u­a­tion, un­der­stood what the court and our coun­try re­quired, and over­came its enor­mous dif­fi­cul­ties. For the past five years, they have formed a for­mi­da­ble team that has pro­vided re­doubtable lead­er­ship to this court through deep and dif­fi­cult times. They have done so se­curely, and with in­tegrity and pur­pose. We have been for­tu­nate in­deed to have such sin­gu­lar peo­ple – of in­tegrity and vi­sion – at the head of the court.

Make no mis­take. In ori­gin, tem­per­a­ment and world-view, you could hardly imag­ine two more dif­fer­ent peo­ple.

Mo­go­eng – from a small, ru­ral vil­lage. Dik­gang – from an ur­ban home. Mo­go­eng, who fasts for long, rig­or­ous pe­ri­ods to pu­rify his in­sights and his fo­cus. Dik­gang, who can­not get through a hear­ing with­out nib­bling on some­thing.

Both are lovers of their na­tive Setswana lan­guage, but have dis­played their lin­guis­tic gifts in the usual lan­guage of con­verse this court uses, English. What a his­tor­i­cally im­pres­sive team they have made. Of course, Dik­gang is not with­out blem­ish. The time for blem­ish-free praise was at the cer­e­mo­nial sit­ting. Not now. Oh no. There is a ru­mour that does the rounds – sourced, I think, in col­leagues like Bess Nk­abinde and Sisi Kham­pepe and my­self, that Dik­gang once, dur­ing a hear­ing, made a sin­gu­lar in­quiry of coun­sel for the ap­pli­cant. The hear­ing con­cerned a woman en­meshed in im­mi­gra­tion com­plex­ity. She worked, we were told, as a pole dancer. Her em­ploy­ers were al­leged to have kid­napped her by seiz­ing her pass­port and with­hold­ing it from her. The ap­pli­cant’s name was Ta­tiana Malachi, a name to con­jure with. The in­sti­tu­tion of learn­ing for which she worked, which was al­leged to have im­pris­oned her, was called the Cape Dance Acad­emy. The ru­mour is this: At the hear­ing Dik­gang en­quired from her coun­sel, An­ton Katz SC, whether she was present, and, if she was, whether she could rise. Why he should have done this is en­tirely so mys­te­ri­ous that I wish to de­nounce the ru­mour right now. I wish to state au­thor­i­ta­tively that this al­leged in­ci­dent is en­tirely un­true. Any­one seek­ing to ver­ify it will be un­able to do so be­cause the sources of ru­mour, my two fe­male col­leagues and my­self, dearly love Dik­gang and will de­fend him in any cir­cum­stances against wicked, un­just and spu­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions. From Mon­day we have to do with­out Dik­gang. I re­ally don’t know how. This has been a heavy week for “lasts”. He is a truly gen­er­ous-spir­ited, li­on­hearted hu­man be­ing.

He has ex­hib­ited a pro­fun­dity of com­mit­ment to the Con­sti­tu­tion, and an im­pulse to jus­tice, that has few equals among South African judges of the past cen­tury.

He will take his place among the very best, the most res­o­lute and prin­ci­pled and jus­tice-seek­ing of lawyerly judges – the In­neses, the Schrein­ers, the Cor­betts, the Chaskalsons and the Lan­gas.

Among them, Dik­gang will take hon­oured place for his elo­quence and stead­fast­ness and res­o­lu­tion, in se­cu­rity and jus­tice un­der law for our frac­tured coun­try. It is my hon­our to raise a toast to him. Jus­tice Cameron is a judge on the Con­sti­tu­tional Court. He paid trib­ute to Moseneke at a farewell din­ner on

Thurs­day evening at the court

TALK TO US What do you think has been for­mer Deputy Chief Jus­tice Dik­gang Moseneke’s great­est con­tri­bu­tion to our democ­racy?

SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word JUDGE and tell us what you think. In­clude your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50


Dik­gang Ernest Moseneke is con­grat­u­lated by his wife, Khabon­ina, af­ter be­ing ad­mit­ted as an at­tor­ney on April 15 1978

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