- The greyed man who inhabits this space refuses to pose for pictures from behind this desk, insisting earnestly that when he occupies “that” chair, he assumes his mantle as deputy chief justice of South Africa.
“That is where I work and serve the country and its people. I respect that chair and the responsibilities that come with it,” says Dikgang Moseneke.
People often view “big cases” as those that have an effect on broader society, but the smaller and less political cases are often the most intense.
“I cannot remember a case that was not challenging. The role of the judge is to resolve disputes and by the time the cases reach the Constitutional Court, that is an indication of how serious the issues being disputed are,” Moseneke says.
Speaking about the Abahlali baseMjondolo trial in 2009, Moseneke says:
“Land is not just an issue of economic or commercial importance – it has meaning at many levels. It is very spiritual. It is in land that we bury our people, we connect and speak to our ancestors. It is land on which churches, temples and mosques are built and it is from land that we eat and survive.”
Moseneke also stresses the importance of the three arms of the state – and the necessary separation between them.
“The role of those of us in the judiciary is clear; the same goes for politicians and those in government. One cannot impose their own preferences on the judiciary – the Constitution constrains our agency for the greater good of the people.”
In 1993, Moseneke was part of the technical team that drafted the interim Constitution and has worked closely with those who put together the final Constitution, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. “Constitutions are never perfect but ours is as good as it gets,” he says proudly.
And lastly, Moseneke stressed the importance of decolonisation in South Africa:
“Decolonisation is the total eradication of colonial legacies; this cannot be done on a judicial level. We merely uphold the Constitution. The work [of decolonising] will happen through the grassroots empowerment of South Africans.”
Deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke enjoyed a retirement ceremony at the Constitutional Court on Friday as he stepped down after 14 years of service on the bench there. The Mail & Guardian‘s Pontsho Pilane interviewed the judge this week, and we’ve put together this list of some of his words of wisdom.
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Read the full interview with deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke here:
‘Moseneke and the duty of justice’