The furore surrounding the nomination of Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng to become the next Chief Justice has tempted me to play parody on St John’s words: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth” John 1: 46.
Some people even media houses tend to have selective amnesia. They worry more about nature and tend to disregard nurture when they argue or debate.
While Section 174 of the constitution gives the President all the power to nominate and only consult the Judicial Services Commission and leaders of political parties, some commentators have even sought to usurp the role of the president by not only suggesting what has to be done but even saying who should be appointed.
Let us remind ourselves that one’s domestic background should not be used as the major determined of one’s level of development. Examples in this regard are plenty. Qunu was unknown to some until Mandela became president, Idutywa is equally as sleepy as before Thabo Mbeki rose to become president. Very few, if any, knew that there is a place called Nkandla on the map of South Africa until Jacob Zuma rose to popularity. It is very few people who can associate Arch Bishop Tutu with Klerksdorp. The list is endless.
It is therefore not logical to argue that because Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng was Judge President in the North West Provincial High Court he does not deserve being considered for the position of chief justice. He is qualified. He is well read. For the record he was interviewed for the position of judge, then Judge President and subsequently Judge of the Constitutional Court. He has nothing more to prove. He surely has gone through the mill compared to some names that have been bandied around.
Members of the same JSC, some of whom are crying foul, recommended him for the positions of judge, judge president and judge of the Constitutional Court.
Very little is being said about the fact that Mogoeng brings a wealth of experience as the ONLY judge in that court who has served as Judge President.
To argue that he found others in the establishment is as puerile as referring to his failure to recuse himself from some case while it is common knowledge that right in the constitutional court former Chief Justice did not recuse himself while his son stood in the same court!
Mogoeng has only attracted media and public attention on issues related to his work. He has not been found dabbling with other issues in business; he was upfront to declare and give up whatever livestock he had when he was appointed.
In fact, the unanimous decision by the judges of the constitutional court that found that the retention or continued appointment of the recently retire Chief Justice Ngcobo was constitutional also made came to the conclusion that all judges in the court are equal; no one should be elevated above others. They applied the principle of one being the first among equals. This then presupposes that any judge in that court may be nominated and appointed Chief Justice.
It is unfortunate that Mogoeng is being denigrated in the main because of where he comes from, the North West Province and Koffiekraal (Lefurutshane) nogal. People tend to forget that dynamites come in small packages.
Mogoeng’s age will afford the court to have the same leadership for at least a decade before another Chief Justice takes over. All we need do is to support him and know that that is not his court. While he will be called upon to write judgements on specific and high profile cases, the view of the majority of the judges on the bench will prevail as has been the case even with all past Chief Justices.
South Africa is home for all who live in it!