Human Rights Organisation Africa for Palestine says it intends to lodge another complaint with the Judicial Service Commission against Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.
The organisation says Mogoeng’s latest comments on the COVID-19 vaccine, undermines medical science. Mogoeng caused a stir after video footage surfaced of him praying, in which he cautioned against harmful vaccines.
Director at Africa for Palestine, Muhammed Desai, says although they support freedom of speech, the Chief Justice must adhere to the Judicial Code of Conduct.
“I’m not saying that one cannot pray but the problem is what is included in that prayer. The code of conduct makes it clear that judges including justices of the constitutional court should not enter into political controversies, if you want to not have that obligation then don’t be a judge. We are bringing this complaint with a reason and that is that, you are violating the JSC code of conduct. We can’t have people being anarchic especially the Chief Justice of our country during a time when the entire world is searching for a solution to get us out of this pandemic, the chief justice should have been more cautious.”
Mogoeng defends the prayer
Briefing the media on the 2019/2020 Judiciary Annual report at his offices in Midrand, north of Johannesburg, Mogoeng defended his controversial prayer. He said he will not apologise for his prayer or beg for permission to pray.
Mogoeng lambasted the media and dismissed reports that he is against any vaccine for COVID-19.
“Where did I say I’m against vaccination, where? That is the problem with South African reporting, where is it? I don’t know whether it’s a laziness to think or a determination to push a particular agenda against some of us, I don’t understand, where did I say that? Where does it come from? So I’m not against vaccination, but any vaccination that will bring harm to people. I’m praying against it and I will never stop. I’m asking anybody who cares about life to pray against it.”
Separation of judicial responsibilities and religion
The Chief Justice denounced the notion that his judicial responsibilities should be separated from his Christian beliefs. He said even the country’s constitution asks for God to protect the nation.
“Where do you get this thing of separating my judicial responsibilities from my Christian beliefs, where can we look for in the constitution or anywhere else? The last time I checked the constitution, it lists among the fundamental rights; freedom of religion, freedom of opinion, and freedom of thought, so where do you get this thing from?”
The Chief Justice said he is not concerned about his reputation as the head of the judiciary in the country. He said he expected the backlash.
“I’m not worried about fictional reputation, oh this is how the Chief Justice is supposed to behave, where is the manual for that, where do you get it, what are you trying to have us comply with? I’m not a conformist, our country, our constitution does not demand of us to be that way. I did watch the backlash but maybe it was not unexpected, remember what I said to the CEO and the Chairman, I said you know if they come after you for what I’m going to say cause I know prayer is controversial in South Africa, insults are never controversial, look it is prayer in the name of Jesus that is controversial, all other prayers are fine.”
An emotionally charged Mogoeng said he will not be silenced.
“So what is it about this vaccine that people must believe that there can’t be anything wrong about it, what is it? What are we afraid of, why do we want to beat people into silence about it, we must speak freely about it even about the origins of coronavirus. We must speak freely, this is a free country. People must be very careful about wanting to take us back to the era of colonialism and apartheid where freedom of thought and opinion was not allowed. I’m not going to be silenced, I don’t care about the consequences, we’ve been quiet for far too long toeing the line, and I’m not going to do any of that. It doesn’t matter how many people criticise me.”
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng responds to reactions to his prayer:
This is not the first time the Chief Justice’s faith has caused a public outcry. In August he criticised South Africa’s foreign policy on the Israel-Palestine issue by using Bible verses to defend Israel and expressed love for it during a Jerusalem Post webinar, leading to a complaint being laid against him with the Judicial Service Commission.