Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has hit back at critics suggesting he is President Jacob Zuma’s “yes man”.
Mogoeng said he was indebted to Zuma who nominated him to the highest judicial seat amid widespread disapproval.
But, he said he was appointed according to the same procedure as all other chief justices.
Delivering the second Onkgopotse Tiro memorial lecture at the University of Limpopo’s Turfloop Campus outside Polokwane today, Mogoeng said the country’s judiciary, which he leads, was out to perform its duties without fear and prejudice.
An activist in the 70’s, Tiro was expelled from the then University of the North after delivering his speech as SRC president in which he criticised Bantu Education during a graduation ceremony in 1972.
He later took a teaching position at Morris Isaacson Secondary School in Soweto where he was also expelled by the apartheid government because of his political struggle involvement.
Fearing arrest, he fled to neighbouring Botswana where he was killed by a parcel bomb in February 1974.
Mogoeng, who also hails from the Zeerust area in North West, where Tiro was born, said had he been alive, the black consciousness activist would have pushed the struggle for a fair-for-all justice system.
“I cannot help wondering about what kind of judiciary Tiro would have expected to see in this county right now. Similarly, I wonder what projects he would have embarked upon if he were the chief justice of South Africa right now,” he said.
“Onkgopotse Tiro would have, without a doubt, insisted on the South African justice system that does not belong to any institution, any sector of society or a grouping of powerful individuals. He would have demanded the appointment of judges and magistrates who would preferably stand for truth and justice however strong the pressure to do otherwise might be.”
Mogoeng later related this to suggestions that he was Zuma’s “yes man”. He was appointed despite criticism that he was less experienced than other judges, including his deputy, Justice Dikgang Moseneke.
Mogoeng said he did not understand why it can be suggested he was Zuma’s man when it was only a procedure for the president to nominate a candidate for the position of chief justice.
He asked whether he was only targeted because he was appointed by Zuma.
“All judges after 1994 were appointed by the president. Does this mean that those appointed by presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki will do everything to please them or is it only those appointed by President Zuma?” he asked.
“All (former chief justices) were nominated by the president. Does it then mean that they were in the pocket of a politician?”
He added Tiro would have “insisted on the appointment of judges and magistrates who have no special constituency to please but to simply do their work without fear, favour or prejudice”.
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