Opinionista Rhulani Thembi Siweya 12 April 2016

Mogoeng Mogoeng paid the black professional price

When he was appointed, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng was dismissed by many as Zuma’s stooge. Now, after the Nkandla judgment, he’s a hero. But why was everyone so dismissive in the first place?

When Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court Mogoeng Mogoeng made an obvious ruling on the Nkandla debacle, one was reminded of the famous words by Karl Marx.

Marx once reminded the world that, “The social revolution cannot draw its poetry from the past, but only from the future. It cannot begin with itself before it has stripped itself of all its superstitions concerning the past. Earlier revolutionaries relied on memories out of world history in order to drug themselves against their own content. In order to find their own content, the revolutionaries of the 19th century have to let the dead bury the dead. Before, the expression exceeded the content; now, the content exceeds the expression.”

When Mogoeng was appointed five years back or so, many South Africans opted to judge the man on wrong premises. This they did by refusing to acknowledge that he was a professional in his own right. As a people we refused to strip ourselves of various superstitions we held. This ranged from his religious orientation to the fact that he was appointed by Zuma, who was accused of wanting to control the courts to defend his ills.

Maybe if he was white the noise would have been less.

As a people we must learn from this bad conduct. We were so wrong because we relied on memories out of wrong perceptions. This reminded me that as black people we do not trust each other. Colonial mentality has ruled us so much that we even undermine our own black professionals.

During his stay in office, we continued to undermine the courts because we said “he is a Christian as if he was the only professional who is a Christian”. We even lied that he forced judges to attend religious activities. We simply saw him as a man who was put in office to defend Zuma. This was concluded without proof. The courts of public opinion were in control.

One morning, when he and other five judges woke up and spoke what we wanted to hear, as a people we quickly forgot that he was Christian, or a so-called stooge of Zuma, because he had kept his head high and represented his profession very well. We quickly started celebrating him. One is still asking, what wrong had Mogoeng done not to be trusted? Why didn’t we simply give him the benefit of the doubt from the start?

It surely didn’t have to take him to comment on the Nkandla matter for South Africans to have confidence in him. As South Africans, we still suffer from colonial thoughts. As blacks, we don’t trust our own professionals, we expect them to do extraordinary things before we acknowledge that they are qualified. Mogoeng paid a price many black professionals pay on a daily basis.

Black professionals are seen as people who obtained their qualifications through favour, we expect them to sweat before trusting them. We owe him an apology. We owe our struggle heroes an apology.

The lesson from this is that we must let the dead bury the dead and treat each other on a fair platform. Mogoeng did not do anything extraordinary for us to celebrate him today. He simply applied the law, the law which he and his team know as professionals. This is the law he understood from the day he occupied office. Something we seem to be missing. What has transpired is a bad reflection of how we need to decolonise our minds. DM

Rhulani Thembi Siweya is the founder of Africa Unmasked and an NEC member of the ANC Youth League. She writes here in her personal capacity.

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