Only the uncorrupted can deal with the corrupt - Mogoeng Mogoeng

CJ says judges in Africa need to be honest and principled, and be ready to die for a just cause

Chief Justice Mogoeng elected African judicial congress president

Cape Town - Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has been elected President of the Conference of Constitutional Jurisdictions of Africa (CCJA) at its fourth congress.

Mogoeng was elected on Wednesday after a four-day congress hosted at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, under the theme: "Strengthening the independence of the judiciary and respect for the rule of law".

He had previously served as vice president under the outgoing Marie Madeleine Mborantsuo of Gabon. He will serve for two years.

Dignitaries from 35 African countries attended the event.

Mogoeng told the congress he was honoured to be elected the conference's president, and thanked members of the organising committee publicly for hosting a successful event.

He said his own country was evidence of how a Constitutional democracy can unite a warring nation.

"Just before the transition to democracy, there were three incidents that took place that left some of us unsure that the negotiations were going to be successful.

"The first was when a group of right-wingers drove a truck through the venue where leaders were holding the negotiation talks. The former chief justices who were present had to duck and hide for fear of their lives.

"There was a stage where there was a very ugly exchange of words between former President De Klerk and Nelson Mandela. We all thought, that is it, it is over.

"Finally, it was the assassination of Chris Hani, who was killed by a white, right-winger.

"Despite this history, [today] we are a Constitutional democracy. Those were just the birth pains."

Corruption the enemy

He said corruption was a key element hampering the alleviation of poverty in Africa.

"We enjoy a singular honour as judges of courts on this continent, of eradicating corruption," he said.

"But we can only do that, if we are not corrupt. It takes the uncorrupted to deal effectively with those who are corrupt.

"Do we eat from the same dish as the corrupt, using our legal expertise to cover up?"

He said judges on the continent need to be honest and principled, and be ready to die for a just cause, if death was a realistic possibility for them.

Corrupt individuals will look to use and manipulate judges to the point of dumping them "like chewing gum, once they have lost their sweetness".

The continent also needs to look at best practices from around the world, and define for itself an African best practice in upholding their respective Constitutions.

This should include peer review, he said. "Let us be predictably principled, as judges."

He said his position of Chief Justice belongs to all the people of his country, and he therefore cannot laud it over citizens.

Africa's past meeting its future

Mogoeng considered the possibility and the hope that Africa could one day be a stronghold for the rule of law around the world.

"If only we can be united in the vision that has long been waited for: the vision of demonstrating to all that African people have what it takes to take their continent to the greatest heights that it was once known for."

He cited ancient nations and cities that were known for advancements in technology, such as Egypt, and riches, such as Timbuktu, as evidence of the continent's potential, when other civilizations were still small.

Mogoeng said he will assume his presidency confident that the CCJA will begin a "beautiful launch of this new phase of the organisation".

"Let us go and work. Thank you very much," he finished.

The CCJA is an independent institution established by constitutional judiciaries in Africa, to ensure that the judiciary in each member state supports and deepens democracy by upholding constitutionalism and the rule of law.

The African Union decided in 2010 that a CCJA was necessary to establish to help the continent strengthen its judicial mechanisms against corruption and state abuse.