HOLD­ING COURT

Mo­go­eng Mo­go­eng’s com­ment on Pales­tine, like He­len Zille’s on racist leg­is­la­tion, was an un­nec­es­sary at­tempt to in­ject his skewed be­lief sys­tem into the na­tional di­a­logue

Financial Mail - - FEATURE - Chris Roper

Al­low ANC na­tional spokesper­son Pule Mabe to re­mind you of our gov­ern­ment’s stand­point. “We sup­port hu­man rights and we stand with the op­pressed Pales­tini­ans who in­clude Chris­tians of the Holy Land, as well as the res­i­dents of Jerusalem and Beth­le­hem who are liv­ing un­der Is­raeli apartheid.”

The chief jus­tice’s ar­gu­ment against the SA gov­ern­ment’s of­fi­cial stand­point is drawn from Gen­e­sis and the Psalms.

To quote his on­line in­ter­view with the Jerusalem Post, whose edi­tor clearly couldn’t be­lieve his luck: “Let me ac­knowl­edge with­out any equiv­o­ca­tion that the pol­icy de­ci­sion taken by my coun­try is bind­ing on me.

“So any­thing I say must not be mis­con­strued as me say­ing that my coun­try’s laws are not bind­ing on me. But … as a ci­ti­zen I can sug­gest that changes are nec­es­sary …

“Let me give the base. The first base I need is in Psalm 122:6 which says: ‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. They shall pros­per that love thee.’

“Also Gen­e­sis 12:1-3, that says to me as a Chris­tian, that if I curse Abra­ham and Israel, God, the Almighty God, will curse me too. So I am un­der an obli­ga­tion as a Chris­tian.”

It all seems an oddly self-serv­ing set of bib­li­cal jus­ti­fi­ca­tions; if I take Israel’s side, I’ll pros­per. If I don’t take Israel’s side, God will curse me.

It’s a re­wards-driven way of think­ing shared by Mo­go­eng’s sup­port­ers, in­clud­ing Klaas Mok­go­mole and Mma­malema Molepo of the group Africans for Peace, who tell us: “By merely ex­press­ing his re­li­gious views that do not in­fringe on the rights of oth­ers nor ad­vo­cate in­cite­ment to cause harm, chief jus­tice Mo­go­eng Mo­go­eng has had many an in­sult hurled at him. The chief jus­tice is not money and can­not seek to please ev­ery­one.”

Does money please ev­ery­one? That seems a strange point of view, and pos­si­bly a bit more re­veal­ing about the na­ture of be­lief as cur­rency than in­tended.

The chief jus­tice doesn’t ap­pear to be a huge fan of the ANC’S at­tempts to rec­tify the in­jus­tices of apartheid. “Come to SA,” he in­vited the grate­ful edi­tor in chief of the Jerusalem Post, “and see how the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of peo­ple live in shacks, how the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of peo­ple of a par­tic­u­lar race are un­em­ployed, are liv­ing in ab­ject poverty.

“Where is the move­ment for that, where is the [au­dio is un­clear] cam­paign for that, where is the pointed cam­paign for the in­jec­tion of hope and broader heal­ing, and restora­tion of the dig­nity of the peo­ple of SA?”

I mean, I thought it was called the re­con­struc­tion & de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme, but I ad­mit I haven’t been keep­ing up with gov­ern­ment prom­ises of late. Who can stand the con­stant dis­ap­point­ment?

Zille be­lieves we have more racist laws now than we did un­der apartheid. While this might be blind­ingly stupid, it at least still ac­knowl­edges that the law is the law. Our anti­no­mian chief jus­tice ap­pears to be pulling a Gal­lio (pro­con­sul of Achaea in 51 CE, I’m sure I don’t need to re­mind you — Acts 18:12-16), and seems to be a pro­po­nent of the at­ti­tude to the law em­bod­ied in Gala­tians 3:23-25. “Be­fore the com­ing of this faith, we were held in cus­tody un­der the law, locked up un­til the faith that was to come would be re­vealed. So the law was our guardian un­til

Christ came that we might be jus­ti­fied by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer un­der a guardian.”

Which is sort of talk­ing him­self out of a job, if you think about it.

Why should we worry about a chief jus­tice’s per­sonal be­lief sys­tem, you ask? One an­swer comes from the ANC’S Mabe. “The chief jus­tice … is the pri­mary pro­tec­tor of the con­sti­tu­tion of SA and if the gov­ern­ment was in vi­o­la­tion of the Bill of Rights, he and the bench must de­fend the con­sti­tu­tion above all else and any other con­sid­er­a­tion. For this rea­son, his dis­agree­ment with the pol­icy of the gov­ern­ment is of grave con­cern, where the main ar­gu­ment of the pol­icy on Pales­tine is premised on hu­man rights.”

But, also, once you’ve de­cided that your in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the Bi­ble is as rel­e­vant as the law, you end up say­ing things like this: “Lead­ers [are] say­ing so many peo­ple are af­fected by coro­n­avirus, so many peo­ple are go­ing to die. They are even proph­esy­ing they know how many peo­ple are go­ing to die. I don’t know how they know that.

“Now, be­cause of those words that are con­sis­tently pumped into the me­dia plat­forms, they en­ter the heart of the peo­ple, they en­ter the minds of the peo­ple.

“So ev­ery­body is trem­bling, even the peo­ple of faith, where bold­ness is sup­posed to be found, sud­denly the faith that they used to have in the Almighty God is not there any more.”

The idea that sci­ence-based ex­trap­o­la­tion is de­scribed as “prophecy” is scary enough, with its sug­ges­tion that prophecy and sci­ence are sim­i­lar. Even more dis­turb­ing, though, is the as­sump­tion that the me­dia is fear-mon­ger­ing with all this Covid-19 non­sense, and that peo­ple of faith shouldn’t be trem­bling — for some God­given rea­son of im­mu­nity, one as­sumes.

Mo­go­eng’s ar­gu­ment isn’t quite as crude as th­ese ex­tracts paint, of course. But as with

Zille’s con­tention that there are more racist laws now than there were un­der apartheid, his very in­ter­ven­tion is so un­nec­es­sary, and ap­pears to be premised on the same im­pulse as Zille’s.

That is, an at­tempt to in­ject one’s own skewed be­lief sys­tem into the na­tional di­a­logue by virtue of a provoca­tive and ul­ti­mately in­de­fen­si­ble propo­si­tion that doesn’t re­ally do your pri­mary ar­gu­ment any ben­e­fit.

All that does is get ev­ery­one itchy for a while, to no ul­ti­mate good.

There are many ways to draw very pos­i­tive mes­sages about hu­man rights from the Bi­ble, but there are also very many ways to jus­tify crimes against hu­man­ity, such as geno­cide, ho­mo­pho­bia, apartheid or Don­ald Trump

Gallo Images/bu­sisiwe Mbatha

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