‘He deserves a good rest’: Mogoeng led judiciary through turbulent times

Deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo thanks the retiring chief justice for his outstanding service to the people of SA

Deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo paid tribute to his boss, retired chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, on Monday, saying that he played a critical role in enhancing the stature of the country's judiciary.
Deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo paid tribute to his boss, retired chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, on Monday, saying that he played a critical role in enhancing the stature of the country's judiciary.
Image: ELMOND JIYANE / GCIS

On Monday, October 11 2021, chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng’s term of office as a justice of the Constitutional Court and as chief justice of the Republic of SA came to an end as he retired from office. Mogoeng was the fifth chief justice to be appointed in democratic SA. Yesterday, he completed 12 years as a justice of the Constitutional Court. In September he completed 10 years as chief justice of SA.

Under his stewardship, the judiciary, as an arm of state, has taken strides to vigorously protect its independence and prove itself as the guardian of the constitution. Through his outstanding leadership, Mogoeng greatly enhanced the standing of the judiciary in our country.

In June 1997, he was appointed as a judge of the North West high court and in April 2000 as a judge of the labour appeal court. In October 2002 he was elevated to the position of judge president of the North West high court. He was appointed as a justice of the ConCourt in 2009. He was elevated to the position of chief justice of the Republic of SA on September 8 2011. In that capacity he led both the ConCourt and the judiciary.

He served this country as chief justice during some of the most difficult times in our constitutional democracy and was able to lead the judiciary with courage, integrity and wisdom

On behalf of my colleagues in the ConCourt and the entire judiciary, I take this opportunity to thank Mogoeng for his excellent service to the judiciary and to the people of SA. He served this country as chief justice during some of the most difficult times in our constitutional democracy and was able to lead the judiciary with courage, integrity and wisdom.

Mogoeng began his term of office at a time when many people doubted whether he was the right person for the job and yet it did not take him long to prove that, indeed, he was up to the challenge. In no time he won over many of those who doubted whether he was up to the job.

During his term of office Mogoeng was very popular. He often spoke strongly against corruption in both the public and private sectors and emphasised the need for ethical leadership in both sectors.

The chief justice provided the 2030 Vision for the Judiciary as a contribution to the National Development Plan. This vision outlined the development plans for the judiciary, based on the principle of judicial independence, for the norms and standards; judicial case management; judicial education; court modernisation and access to justice. It further outlined the judiciary’s preferred court administration model as outlined in the report which was presented to the executive authority for its consideration.

Some of the highlights during Mogoeng’s term of office were:

  • The South African Judicial Education Institute, which provides ongoing training for judicial officers, came into operation;
  • Norms and standards for the performance of judicial functions were enacted. This milestone was important to promote and enhance access to justice. These norms and standards are underpinned by the core values of judicial independence and accountability, accessibility, transparency, responsiveness, collegiality and diligence, among other things;
  • Judicial case flow management has been institutionalised in the litigation processes in our courts. This enables judges to manage and control cases to expedite them;
  • Under the chief justice’s leadership, the process of court modernisation was initiated. Under his guidance, Caselines, as an electronic evidence management system, has been successfully rolled out in the Gauteng division of the high court. A fully automated case management system, Court Online, will soon be rolled out in all superior courts. This is the result of the chief justice’s belief that an appropriate court-automation system, that will assist to implement electronic filing and electronic record-keeping, performance-related data capturing, information dissemination or access to information relating to cases and all other matters that affect court operations, will ensure that justice can be easily accessible and that access to court processes will be enhanced;
  • The chief justice initiated the annual judiciary report which, since 2018, is released on Judiciary Day. It is through such annual reports that the judiciary accounts to the public for its performance of its judicial functions;
  • Mogoeng also introduced the national efficiency enhancement committee, which he chaired, the object of which is to prioritise and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the justice system. Under the NEEC, the leadership of the judiciary, the executive and other stakeholders collaborate to improve performance of the courts in ensuring justice. The NEEC identifies shortcomings in the justice system and develops measures aimed at addressing those shortcomings;
  • The responsibility for the administration of the superior courts was transferred from the department of justice and constitutional development to the office of the chief justice;
  • Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng was elected as the president of the Conference of Constitutional Jurisdictions of Africa (CCJA) in 2017. During his term of office as president of the CCJA, Mogoeng oversaw the rapid growth of the CCJA as a continental body, as well as its critical role on constitutional issues in the global arena. The sharp increase in membership was due to Mogoeng’s rigorous work on the continent in which he actively sought to recruit jurisdictions that were not yet members. As the CCJA’s president, he also ensured that the CCJA participated in the conferences of all other continental bodies from around the world and, thus, ensured that Africa’s voice was heard on the world stage on constitutional justice matters; and
  • The chief justice led a delegation of senior leaders of the judiciary in a meeting with the executive in 2015, when there had been relentless attacks on the judiciary after the judgment that Sudanese president Al-Bashir be arrested when he was on a visit to SA in accordance with SA’s obligations under the Rome Statute, and that order was not complied with.
It has been said that the chief justice’s judgment in the Nkandla matter provided a turning point on accountability and the fight against corruption in this country

Apart from these achievements, Mogoeng made a huge contribution to our jurisprudence and wrote some of the most important judgments that have helped strengthen and promote the rule of law, the supremacy of the constitution and the bill of rights.

In this regard the people of SA will not forget his judgment in the Nkandla matter, his secret ballot judgment with regard to the vote of no confidence in parliament, his Sars judgment on racism, and many others.

It has been said that the chief justice’s judgment on the Nkandla matter provided a turning point on accountability and the fight against corruption in this country.

We thank the chief justice for leading the judiciary with distinction, for his humility and integrity. We thank him for his outstanding service to the people of this country.

We thank his wife and family for giving him strong support during his term of office and for allowing him to devote as much time as he did to the service of the nation.

We wish the chief justice everything of the best in his retirement. He deserves a good rest.


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