The South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) has lodged a complaint with the Judicial Conduct Committee (JCC) against retired judge Siraj Desai, over an alleged breach of the Code of Judicial Conduct.
Describing Desai’s behaviour as “entirely unbecoming of a judicial officer”, the SAZF – which aims to “protect and promote Israel and Zionism in South Africa” – says it recently became aware of the extent of Desai’s alleged misconduct.
Desai retired from the Western Cape High Court last year after a 25-year tenure and was appointed as Legal Services Ombud by President Cyril Ramaphosa in December 2020.
SAZF’s complaints against Desai
Likening Mandela to a ‘despotic’ leader
The SAZF says Desai compared Iran’s “despotic” founding leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, to former president Nelson Mandela on an Iranian YouTube channel.
“To compare a world-renowned peacemaker like president Mandela to the despotic founding leader of a regime notorious for its disregard of human rights, and which is responsible for gross human rights violations, including torture and violence against thousands of people, is an insult to the people of South Africa, the Constitution, and our democratic institutions,” the SAZF said.
The lobby group also lamented Desai “referring to the United States, an important trade and diplomatic partner of South Africa, as the ‘Great Satan'”.
‘Endorsing and promoting the anti-Israel political lobby’
The SAZF has also taken exception with Desai leading a tour to the Gaza Strip with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), which is now known as Africa4Palestine, and a perceived conflict of interest in a case he ruled over involving BDS.
“The BDS movement is notorious for its zealous anti-Zionism and for fostering enmity towards the South African Jewish community. Despite his long-standing links to partisan advocacy organisations such as the BDS, in 2015 judge Desai presided over a case brought by BDS activists.”
The SAZF also noted that in 2018, Desai supported the Palestinian “militant group” Hamas during their trip to South Africa.
“This, despite the fact that the Hamas Charter includes direct calls for violence against Jewish people and the destruction of the state of Israel. Using the prestige of the judicial office to publicly promote an extremist organisation is clearly contrary to the precepts underlying the judicial code of conduct,” SAZF said.
— Thakira Desai • ذَاكِرَة (@thakira1) December 2, 2018
SAZF’s complaint against Desai coincides with Africa4Palestine’s acting against Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng over his pro-Israel comments last year.
In March, the JCC ordered Mogoeng to apologise for his comments after finding he had become involved in political controversy and was in breach of the judicial code of conduct.