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'I won't beg for permission to pray': Mogoeng defends ‘666 vaccine’ remarks

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng on Thursday prayed against corruption; and COVID-19 vaccines, which he warned might seek to harm people, which raised eyebrows.

FILE: Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. Picture: @OCJ_RSA/Twitter.

JOHANNESBURG - Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng on Friday defended the contents of a prayer he delivered at Tembisa Hospital on Thursday, saying there was nothing untoward about his actions because South Africa is a secular state.

Mogoeng prayed against corruption and COVID-19 vaccines, which he warned might seek to harm people.

While answering questions at the release of the judiciary annual report for 2019/2020, Mogoeng said he was praying that God would destroy any vaccine containing “666” - numbers Christians believed to be the mark of the devil.

“I’m not going to be begging for permission to pray – never. In public and in private, I’m going to pray all the more. It is my Constitutional right – I am a Christian and I am not going to be hypocritical. Being a robust Christian in public and in private, I pretend, maybe so that when I deliver judgments that are in line with my Christian principals, people cannot spot it. I’m not that guy. We need to be open and we need to be transparent and that’s where I am.”

The global community is racing to finalise experiments on a number of vaccines as more people die from the pandemic - with many countries, including South Africa - battling a second wave of infections.

Some countries including the United Kingdom have already started vaccinations.

At the same time, many are raising concerns about how the Chief Justice's comments will impact on the public's perception of the judiciary.

Chris Oxtoby, a senior researcher at the Democratic Governance and Rights Unit, said: “I think the position that he holds, as the head of the judiciary and as a very influential person in South Africa, it’s an important dynamic of that. I just don’t think it’s particularly wise or responsible for those kinds of remarks to be creating a kind of ambiguity about vaccines.”

The South African Council of Churches’ general secretary Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana said Mogoeng was free to speak on matters outside of the office but there should always be caution on certain matters.

“There has to be a measure of caution about public announcements that will have a bearing on our other roles as public figures.”

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