ISUPPOSE you can call Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng the most misjudged judge in the country’s legal history.
Let’s be honest and admit many of us were more than mildly sceptical, even suspicious, when he was appointed chief justice some six years ago.
When President Jacob Zuma made the announcement, many of us squirmed in our seats and speculated what the “real” motives behind Mogoeng’s meteoric rise might be. As one of the Constitutional Court’s most junior members, he was regarded as a relative newcomer to the bench, and a reputed conservative to boot.
Many were also shocked he got the job ahead of the more favoured candidate, Dikgang Moseneke.
Was Mogoeng just another of Zuma’s hand-picked appointees to smooth the way for him to run the judicial arm of government by remote control? After all, loyal cadre deployment has been Zuma’s favoured modus operandi. Just look at his track record in that respect.
To escape being charged with more than 700 counts of fraud and corruption, he has always ensured his appointees as national director of public prosecutions are people who aren’t going to rock the boat.
Take the present incumbent, Shaun Abrahams. If he was serious about his job, he’d be putting behind bars all those scoundrels looting the public purse.
But Abrahams, I suppose, isn’t keen to bite the hand that appointed him. Nor are the Hawks in any great rush to make arrests after the so-called Gupta e-mails exposed the growing web of theft, fraud and corruption involving Zuma, his bosom buddies in Saxonwold and the president’s hand-picked appointees running state-owned enterprises.
And with seasoned corruption fighters like Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas out of the picture, Zuma is probably smiling from ear to ear, knowing his faithful comrades, Malusi Gigaba and Tom Moyane, are in charge of the purse strings. Which brings me back to the highly misjudged judge, Chief Justice Mogoeng.
Today, we look back and admit how wrong and presumptuous we were. He has by sheer example showed he is a man deeply and fiercely committed to the country’s constitution. He put to the sword any suspicion he was allied to the Zuma administration when he forthrightly ruled the president had violated the constitution by failing to act on the public protector’s report on the Nkandla issue.
In recognition of his crucial role in protecting judicial independence, he was honoured with the Biko Fanon Award for psychological liberation at the Panafrican Psychology Congress in Durban this week. A fitting honour in a year in which the country marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko.