Chief Justice questions state’s legal work being given to whites, slams blacks fronting for business
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has accused some black people of being immersed in self-loathing, resulting in government and moneyed blacks preferring the services of white lawyers when they appear in courts. In a speech at the Black Management Forum’s 40th anniversary dinner on Friday, he also likened blacks who allowed themselves to front for white companies to having “assumed the more nuanced and more sophisticated role of some of their homeland leaders of the past”.
Mogoeng said he had experienced the favouring of white lawyers in all courts he had presided over, from the high court to the Labour Appeal Court and now the Constitutional Court. He said transformation would not be achieved as long as those who were empowered forgot those needing empowerment.
“I see who the parties [in courts] are and who they give work to. I do not mean to embarrass anybody, but state-subsidised institutions, government departments, black people who have money generally – when they give work to attorneys and advocates, it is to white compatriots. If you think I am exaggerating, come to the Constitutional Court; I will open the books for you,” Mogoeng said to the applause of 950 guests.
“How then do you transform when you forget that in the process of being empowered, you must empower the previously disadvantaged?
“Believe you me, even political parties – the majority, the overwhelming majority of whom are black people – you must see who they give work to.”
He challenged the audience to do something about nation-building and reconciliation.
“Let it not be around the right-sounding words that we speak. The time for sound bites is gone.
“This is the time for a reality check. Your commitment to transformation begins at your workplace, begins with your neighbours,” he said.
Mogoeng also took a swipe at whites, saying there was now a “conscious and deliberate bias against black people and women”.
He said blacks who allowed themselves to be used as fronts for business to score big government contracts were distorting the gains of black economic empowerment. “When you front or allow yourself to be an object of fronting ... know that you are a traitor. This thing has gone on for a long time and it hurts me.”
Turning to the land question, Mogoeng said thought leaders such as this forum should come up with solutions. “Let us find effective ways, effective strategies, practical solutions to the land issue. It is a thorny issue. It is an emotive issue. It is a very, very serious issue.” He said the solution to the land issue lay with all South Africans. “The time for spin doctoring over the land issue is gone. “To say that there is a lot of land in the hands of government that can be distributed is spin doctoring that can only go so far in addressing the harms and suffering South Africans have had over the land issue.”
Mogoeng said it was good that many blacks wanted to be in management positions, but asked what they were doing to become business owners.
“What strategies are in place for you to be an employer of labour, for you to be a facilitator of unbundling equity?” he asked.
He said blacks could not bring real influence until they “graduate from feeding on the crumbs of the economy and pierce through the corporate veil that has been denying them the opportunity to occupy the commanding heights of the economy”.
He urged the audience to give constructive criticism to government and not be critical or be heard “only when there is something topical and everybody thinks it is fashionable to be throwing stones”.
For real transformation to take place, real commitment was needed, he added.
“Just how committed are we? How much do we remember what has happened to us and how committed are we to ensuring we never let down those who suffered?” he asked.
“Not just so that we can vote, not just so that I can become chief justice, not that you can become a managing director, but so that even the lives of those who cannot speak for themselves, those in villages, can be positively impacted.”
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