South African Friends of Israel (SAFI) has applauded Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng for speaking out on Israel and expressing his views as a Christian.
Mogoeng has been criticised by several organisations and high-ranking officials, including Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor, over comments he made on Israel last week.
Mogoeng made the comments during a webinar hosted by The Jerusalem Post.
During the interview 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.
The ANC said Mogoeng had entered the arena of political commentary which might make him vulnerable should he adjudicate a human rights matter in the future.
The Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution said Mogoeng’s comments “undoubtedly embarrassed the government and its international standing in respect of a key foreign policy position”.
But parts of the Christian community quickly came out in defence of the Chief Justice.
SAFI hosted a virtual protest in support of Mogoeng on Friday.
During the protest, Pastor Barry Isaacs said the Christian community had decided not to be silenced on the matter.
“We will not tolerate in anyway the undermining of our democracy by those with narrow agendas and we will not have our connection to Israel in any way undermined,” he said.
“All over SA we are united in our support for our Chief Justice, Mogoeng Mogoeng. We applaud his convictions to speak out as a Christian,” Isaacs said.
Cope general secretary Papi Kganare said Mogoeng has the right to freedom of speech, expression and belief.
“When he was appointed as a chief justice, he stated very clearly that he is a Christian and nobody had an objection to him being a Christian and a Chief Justice,” Kganare said.
He said Mogoeng was not a government employee, but a leader of an independent institution.
He said the position of government as far as Israel was concerned, was not the position of all South Africans.
“The rights of Chief Justice to express his views as a South African and as a Christian – and people have got the right to disagree with him, but he must not be blackmailed into withdrawing whatever comments he has made based on his position as Chief Justice.”
Pastor Paul Saralina said he believes that biblically, they have the right to support Israel.
“We are standing 110% behind Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng,” he said.