Former chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has apologised for controversial pro-Israel comments, even though he admitted he only did so because he was “forced by the law”.
South Africa’s former chief justice on Thursday apologised for comments he made in 2020 pledging support for Israel.
Mogoeng was sanctioned by the appeal panel of the Judicial Conduct Committee for comments made in a 2020 webinar with the Jerusalem Post. The moderator, editor-in-chief of the newspaper, Yakoov Katz, asked Mogoeng about his love for the Jewish people, for Israel, for the state of Israel and his thoughts on the tense diplomatic relations between South Africa and Israel.
Mogoeng said he was under an obligation as a Christian to love Israel, to pray for the peace of Jerusalem which actually means the peace of Israel.
Citing Biblical scripture, he said: “The first verse I give is in Psalms 122, verse 6, which says: ‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, they shall prosper that love thee,’” Mogoeng said. “Also Genesis 12, verses 1-3, says to me as a Christian, if I curse Abraham and Israel, the Almighty God will curse me too.
“And I cannot as a Christian do anything other than love and pray for Israel because I know hatred for Israel by me and for my nation will, can only attract unprecedented curses upon our nation.”
His comments however were greeted with a backlash as three different organisations took him to task, complaining primarily that Mogoeng committed wilful or grossly negligent breaches of the code of judicial conduct for involving himself in political controversy or activity. The other complaint was that he involved himself in extrajudicial activities.
The Judicial Conduct Committee, which heard the complaint, in April last year found Mogoeng guilty and ordered him to apologise unconditionally.
The appeals committee in January 2022 found Mogoeng “involved himself in political controversy” and “was involved in extrajudicial activities”. He was ordered to apologise, with Thursday, February 3 being the deadline.
On Thursday, Mogoeng did say sorry, even though he admitted that he did so reluctantly.
“I am now forced by the law — the order of the lawfully constituted appeal panel of the Judicial Conduct Committee — to apologise unconditionally in terms of the prescribed apology.
And because I am not above the law, I hereby apologise as ordered: ‘I, Mogoeng Mogoeng, the former chief justice of the Republic of South Africa, hereby apologise unconditionally for becoming involved in political controversy through my utterances at the online seminar (webinar) hosted by the Jerusalem Post on June 23 2020, in which I participated’,” he said.
In the preamble to the apology, Mogoeng said he was pleased that he didn’t have to apologise for his Christian views.
“Just before the dawn of day number 666 of the lockdown in our land, I was informed of the outcome of my appeal against the five findings made against me and the sanction imposed on me …
“I am very thankful that: I have not been ordered to renounce God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and my faith in Him; I have not been ordered to renounce the Holy Bible; I have not been ordered to renounce prayer; and I have not been ordered to renounce my love for Israel and Palestine and my love for the Jews and the Palestinians as well as my love for all people,” he said.
Mogoeng also denied that he wouldn’t apologise in any circumstance. Instead, he said, he told the committee he wouldn’t apologise unless he was legally obliged to.
“The Judicial Conduct Committee is a creature of statute — the law. Unless set aside, its orders are lawful and binding. And the rule of law is one of the foundational values of our democratic state. It demands of all, including the chief justice, to comply with all lawful orders however much we might disagree with them.
“Individually and together with my judicial colleagues, I have over the years made orders and expected all, including presidents, to comply with them and they did,” he said.
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