Chief Justice nominee Mogoeng Mogoeng defended his “intellectual depth” in an interview with the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) on Saturday.
“I have no doubt about my own intellectual depth,” Mogoeng said after being asked why he had not written any legal articles as other judges had.
Mogoeng said he did not have a “passion for writing”.
He said he had always had a problem with colleagues who used words “you had to look up in a dictionary to understand” but that he was “passionate about judicial education”.
“When I was judge president of the North West, I would subject myself to interact with public on radio. People were just hungry to know the basics.
Mogoeng was being interviewed in a special sitting of the JSC in Cape Town to assess his suitability as chief justice. He was nominated for the job by President Jacob Zuma, following former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo’s retirement after his term of office expired on August 14.
Deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke, who chaired the interview, asked Mogoeng why he thought he had been nominated by Zuma.
“There are many other people who have had extended exposure in judiciary. Why do you think you are president’s nominee?” Moseneke asked.
Mogoeng replied that the Constitution gave the president the prerogative to decide on who he thought was the best candidate.
Commissioner Krish Govender challenged Mogoeng over a reference he had made to “minor injuries” suffered by a young girl when she was raped.
“To me you can’t have something as a minor injury when it comes to rape,” Govender said.
“It can not be diminished by judging amount of injury caused to the woman.”
Mogoeng said he had dealt with many rape cases and that there were “people who are so brutal to women and children, they literally tear them apart mercilessly”.
“I have seen worse than you can imagine, in many cases,” he said.
“They vary in degrees, that is all I am trying to put across. Some even die in the process.”
On the infamous Dey case in the Constitutional Court, Mogoeng said he had “erred” by not providing reasons for his dissent.
“I did not have the time to reflect properly on the matter,” he said.
Mogoeng said he had failed to give reasons, but this was not because he was homophobic.
He reiterated he was committed to the Constitution, but questioned further he conceded that he should not have dissented on the judgment.
At one point following a remark by Moseneke to his reply to a question Mogoeng cut in to say “there is no need to be sarcastic”.
An Inkatha Freedom Party MP Koos van der Merwe said in his 15 years as a commissioner on the JSC, he had never seen a candidate behave that way.
Van der Merwe asked Mogoeng whether he had a “short temper” after his outburst at Moseneke.
“It points to me that you are not suitable to be the number one lawyer in the country.
“This is the first time in 15 years that an applicant is so arrogant that he has done what you have done now.
Mogoeng then apologised.
“Deputy chief justice, I did the wrong thing,” he said. “I apologise.”
Commissioner Nick Koornhof told Mogoeng that if he became chief justice, he would need “strength” to stand up to the executive when it was necessary.
“For that you will need experience,” he said.
“I think you should have been a few years older, but nevertheless if I look at your questionnaire you don’t have any publications in the field of law.
“If we compare you with fellow judges, they will have far more reported cases than you.”
Commissioner Engela Schlemmer said she had an “uneasy feeling” about Mogoeng’s experience.
“Maybe you lack the experience in the judiciary to become chief justice,” she said.
“Many other judges have written more judgements that have been published.
“We don’t have anything to look at to see what your judicial experience amounts to.
“I don’t see anything on paper that can convince me otherwise.”
Mogoeng said he had been a judge for 14 years and that whether others agreed with his judgments was “neither here nor there”.
“I am saying in a nutshell, I have judicial experience,” he said.
“I have been a judge writing judgments for more than 14 years.” — Sapa
President Jacob Zuma has nominated Constitutional Court judge Mogoeng Mogoeng as the new chief justice. For more news on the controversy surrounding the proposed appointment visit our special report.