News24 Wire
Wire Service
2 minute read
23 Nov 2019
10:12 pm

I have confidence in judges, but watch us carefully – Mogoeng Mogoeng delivers 17th Nelson Mandela Lecture

News24 Wire

The Chief Justice says he is not saying there is something wrong with the judges, adding that he has absolute confidence in them.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said although he had confidence in judges, citizens should still watch them carefully to ensure that the judiciary was not compromised.

“Watch us closely, otherwise our constitutional democracy is gone…who do we associate with the most? Who are we uncomfortably or indecently friendly to? And check judgments when those people are involved. Ask yourself, does it make sense?” Mogoeng said on Saturday.

He was delivering the 17th annual Nelson Mandela Lecture at the University of Johannesburg’s Soweto campus under the theme: “Constitutionalism as an instrument for transformation”.

“I am not saying there is something wrong with the judges. I have absolute confidence in us but complacency can set in,” he said.

“We wield extensive power as the South African judiciary. There is almost nothing we cannot do through the instrumentality of the Constitution.”

Mogoeng said judges owed it to the country to ensure that the judiciary was not compromised.

He added that the country should be interested in how people, especially magistrates and judges, were appointed.

“You have got to observe carefully. You have got to watch how people are being interviewed because there are times when you can tell certain people have been shielded from being asked critical questions.”

“How can you have an independent judge or magistrate when [at a time when] questions are asked to them, people build a scrum around them?” Mogoeng asked.

“When these things happen, you must know that people are attempting to capture the judiciary.”

The chief justice also said any competent magistrate or judge seeking to be appointed to a position, should demonstrate their capacity by fielding tough questions.

“But if people are now caucusing about a certain candidate you must know there is an attempt to capture the judiciary,” he said.

“A captured judiciary will never use the Constitution as an instrument for transformation because any captured member of judiciary will simply be told or will know in advance [that] when so and so are involved, I better know my place.”

Mogoeng said former president Nelson Mandela said one of the things judges needed to do was to give reasons for their decision and ensure that an ordinary citizen was able to understand it.

“You must be worried when you read a judgment and you are struggling to make sense of it,” he said.

Mogoeng also said judges were the one who administered oaths to presidents and members of Parliament, expecting them to be loyal to their oath of office. He said it would be “hypocritical” to expect them to commit to doing what the Constitution demanded, if judges didn’t do the same.

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