There can surely be no one left in any doubt that, despite the initial misgivings about his appointment in September 2011, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng is very much his own man.
Two of the criticisms still levelled at Mogoeng are the perception that he has tended to be overly lenient against rapists and sexual offenders against women – first directed at him on his appointment to sit on the Constitutional Court in October 2009 – and a strong bond with the man who made that appointment, President Jacob Zuma.
The former charge still bubbles to the surface on occasion; the latter, of any political bias, has been dispelled by his subsequent widely praised drive to protect the independence of the judiciary and his outspoken championing of this judicial independence and deploring of interference by the executive.
Mogoeng’s straight-talking query over Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini’s inertia in the face of the looming social grants fiasco as being “absolute incompetence” is a prime example of the judge being unbowed by any perceived influence the recipient has inside the ruling elite, or of any personal retribution.
He has faced the hazards of those potential brickbats before, publicly criticising Minister of Justice Michael Masutha for failing to ensure that the judiciary is autonomous and adequately funded, calling a meeting of senior judges and releasing a statement rejecting criticisms by Gwede Mantashe and Blade Nzimande in the wake of the ANC government’s allowing Omar al-Bashir to leave South Africa in contravention of a court order.
He has also ruled on setting aside Zuma’s highly controversial appointment of Menzi Simelane as national director of public prosecutions.
Mogoeng and the court he presides over ruling on grants will certainly underscore the judge’s independent strain.