A complaint has been lodged against Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng for recent comments on the Israel-Palestine dispute, the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) confirmed on Sunday.
Mogoeng has been accused by a group, known as Africa4Palestine, of breaching the judicial code of conduct, JSC spokesperson CP Fourie said on Sunday.
According to the Sunday Times, the group charged that the judge’s actions were incompatible with the confidence in and the impartiality of judges when he said he had an obligation, as a Christian, to love and pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
He made the comments during a discussion hosted by The Jerusalem Post.
Responding to questions from News24 on Sunday, Fourie said: “Yes, a complaint was lodged yesterday by a group, Africa4Palestine. The complaint will be referred to as the acting chairperson of the Judicial Conduct Committee, Justice Zondo, for consideration.”
The Sunday Times reported that the complaint is based on a code which decrees that a judge not become involved in political controversy unless it is necessary for the discharge of judicial office.
Lawyers Sheldon Maragardie, Ben Winks, and Yasin Bham are reportedly among those who helped draft the complaint.
The complaint accused Mogoeng of placing himself in the eye of controversy by appearing in the discussion with SA’s chief rabbi, Warren Goldstein.
The complaint also said that Mogoeng expressed, or at least unambiguously implied, the political posture adopted by the government of South Africa in relation to the state of Israel is not right.
During the interview with the Jerusalem Post, the chief justice said: “Let me begin by saying I acknowledge, without any equivocation, that the policy direction taken by my country South Africa is binding on me.
“It is as binding on me as any other law would bind on me, so whatever I have to say should not be misunderstood as an attempt to say the policy direction taken by my country in terms of their constitutional responsibilities is not binding on me.
“But, just as a citizen, any citizen is entitled to [criticise] the Constitution of South Africa, [and] is entitled to criticise the laws and the policies of South Africa or even suggest that changes are necessary – and that’s where I come from.”
Mogoeng then quoted verses from the Bible to explain his love for Israel and also noted his love for Palestine.
Following his utterances, several organisations wanted him to withdraw his remarks and apologise to all South Africans, including the ANC and International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor.
He has, though, found support from other groups, who said he made the comments in his personal capacity.