Jun 29, 2022
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South Africa’s former Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng is at the center of a fierce controversy due to his Christian belief in supporting Israel.

“I’m under an obligation as a Christian to love Israel, to pray for [the] peace of Jerusalem, which actually means the peace of Israel, and I cannot, as I Christian, do anything other than love and pray for Israel, because I know, hatred for Israel by me and for my nation, can only attract unprecedented curses upon our nation,” Mogoeng stated in July 2020 during a webinar discussion with South African Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein that was hosted by The Jerusalem Post.

“Have we cut diplomatic ties with our colonizers? Have we disinvested from our former colonizers and those responsible for untold suffering in South Africa and Africa? Did Israel take away our land or the land of Africa, did Israel take our mineral wealth,” Mogoeng said during the webinar.

“We would do well to reflect on the objectivity involved in adopting a particular attitude towards a particular country that has not taken as much and unjustly from South Africa and Africa as other nations that we consider it to be an honor to have diplomatic relations with us,” Mogoeng said.

In other comments, he acknowledged his strong Christian faith and said that “I’m under an obligation as a Christian to love Israel, to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, which actually means the peace of Israel.” 

In response, the Africa4Palestine and the South African branch of the BDS movement, filed a complaint against his comments, accusing him of breaching the judicial code of conduct. Moegoeng, who retired in October 2021 after a decade in the position, was still serving as chief justice at the time.

Mogoeng is a devout Christian and an ordained pastor, serving in several church structures. In his interview for the chief justice position, he stated that “God wanted him to be Chief Justice.” He has argued that religion should infuse the law to a greater extent.

Moegoeng contested the complaint, saying that judges should not be “censored, gagged or muzzled.”

“I respect the law. I will not defy the law. But if it does come to the point where I am forced to do the abominable, or I am forced to reject God, then I would rather be without money, be without any position. I will never refuse to obey the Lord,” he asserted.

“If I get to the point where there is a judgment that says, ‘You must say you hate Israel and the Jews’, I would rather cease to be Chief Justice. If I get to the point where they say, ‘Mogoeng, you must say you hate the Palestinians and Palestine,’ I would rather cease to be Chief Justice than to do it…I will not apologize for anything. There is nothing to apologize for,” Mogoeng said. “I can’t apologize for loving. I can’t apologize for not harboring hatred and bitterness.”

The Judicial Conduct Appeals Committee ruled against Moegoeng, stating that he had breached the Judicial Code of Conduct when he involved himself “in extra-judicial activities which are incompatible with the confidence in and the impartiality of Judges.” The committee ordered him to issue an apology. He appealed the ruling, arguing that he had the constitutional rights of freedom of religion and freedom of expression. He added at the time that the Constitution had supremacy over the code. But his appeal was denied on Thursday.

“Pursuant to this decision, the committee, by a majority, directed that Chief Justice Mogoeng should issue an unconditional apology for becoming involved in political controversy through his utterances at the online seminar (webinar) hosted by the Jerusalem Post on June 23, 2020,” the ruling stated. “A copy of the apology must be released by Chief Justice Mogoeng to the Office of the Chief Justice and the media within 10 days of the decision.”