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Mogoeng to focus on how to transform the Constitution at Mandela lecture

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said his keynote address would focus on how the Constitution must be transformative to deal with what he called ‘a sick society’.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng at the handing over of the list of members of the National Assembly and provincial legislatures on 15 May 2019. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

JOHANNESBURG – While previewing the Nelson Mandela lecture that he is set to deliver, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said his opinions would not be restricted just because he’s a judge.

Mogoeng will deliver the lecture at the University of Johannesburg on Saturday under the theme of “Constitutionalism is an Instrument for Transformation”, and Mogoeng said corruption and gender-based violence were some of the symptoms of how the country has failed in ‘transformative constitutionalism’.

He said the address would focus on how the Constitution must be transformative to deal with what he called ‘a sick society’.

The chief justice said the lecture would focus on how South Africa’s great Constitution was failing to make systems deal with today’s ills.

The Chief Justice said the level of sickness in our society was the symptom of those failures.

“From a sickness known as racism, tribalism – tribalism is alive and kicking – ethnicity and even xenophobia. You will never be able to explain why a student would burn the library and their institution of learning that they need. This ‘mind your business’ attitude really explains where we are. I don’t have the right standing to say that this one is a failure because as I do at least three fingers are pointing at me.”

Mogoeng added that all citizens including judges have a constitutional right to criticise and suggest solutions.

“There really is very little that a judge does, based on the Constitution, that is not political in character. There are only a few things that you can’t touch as a Chief Justice because they are political is to say, ‘Go there and vote for so-and-so’.”

The Nelson Mandela Foundation said this year’s lecture would put the spotlight on the shortcomings of the Constitution for those who have been failed by various systems.

The foundation's Chief Executive Officer Sello Hatang said: “The forgotten, the discarded people, those that feel that the Constitution has not led them to live life as envisaged by the Constitution.”