Dikgang Moseneke is a retired former Deputy Chief Justice of the Republic of South Africa. Since his retirement from the Constitutional Court of South Africa, he has written two books. His latest book is called All Rise published by Pan MacMillan South Africa in 2020. In this Q&A session with EW BLOG’s editor, Ezekiel Kekana, Justice Moseneke reflects on his latest book, the genesis of the Constitutional Court, the role of religion in a secular state and pays respect to the late chief justices, Pius Langa and Arthur Chaskalson.
Question: First of all, thank you for your time Ntate Moseneke. Secondly, congratulations on your second book. I think let’s start by discussing what inspired your latest book, All Rise?
Dumela Ezekiel Pepe. Ke lebogela dipotso tsa gago ka All Rise. This work is a judicial memoir. I sought to record history of the people, the law, courts and judges during our change or transition from colonialism and apartheid to a democracy. It is also a recordal of my lived experienced as a freedom fighter and judge in that transition.
Question: The title, All Rise, reads like a clarion call to all people, what motivated you to go with this title?
Liberation ( and all its benefits) is not an event but a process. The people must guard their freedom, demand social justice and are entitled to good, clean and accountable governance and an economy that is just and inclusive. In the preamble I urge them to know when these promises are not fulfilled and that they should then rise.
Question: The book is a judicial memoir, touching on your career from studying law in prison to serving as a Deputy Chief Justice of the Republic of South Africa. With this book, what message(s) were you trying to convey to all the readers?
The book conveys multi-layered messages. The one is that we are a people with rich and difficult history. We made choices in 1994 ( rightly or wrongly) and one of those was a constitutional democracy under the rule of law. Courts were given a vital role. Some of us chose that route to transform our country. And many activists and people turned to courts to assert their newly found freedom. The book invites the reader to judge whether the courts were useful in the transition.
Question: You discussed the genesis of the Constitutional Court and how its forefathers built it to be where it is today. Why did you feel the importance of retelling how this court in our democracy came about?
The constitutional court was a new creation of the democratic transition and in the last 25 years it has been important. Our people need to know about its origin, purpose, actual performance and whether it has served the nation well.
Question: Having served under the late Chief Justices, Arthur Chaskalson and Pius Langa, what lessons have you learnt from both?
Both Chief Justice were remarkably dedicated and loyal to the democratic intent and transformation of our land. They were solid lawyers but with a deep sense of formal and substantive justice. They were good listeners with ample supply of humility.
Question: In the book, you mention the challenges that the Constitutional Court faced when you were serving as a Deputy Chief Justice. Of all the challenges faced, including the Hlophe matter, which challenge (s) would you say shook the court to the core during your time?
Yes the book sets out challenges to the Court. I urge the readers to go and find them in the book. One such is that the more the ruling elite fought for power and resources the more the Court was drawn in to decide their fights. Courts did not choose cases. Cases came to the Court.
Question: You mentioned how Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng used to end his emails with religious salutations and how that irritated other justices. With that, what do you think is the role of religion in our secular state?
Religion is a private matter and has no place in a secular state
Question: Of late, we have seen leaders trying to undermine the Constitutional Court’s rulings. Talk to us about the danger of how the undermining of the Constitutional Court’s rulings poses threat on our constitutional democracy?
Like in soccer or indeed in any game an impartial referee is indispensable. Disputing parties cannot be judges in their own causes. The players may stone or beat up the referee. Then there will be no match worthy of the name. we need not agree with rulings of courts but in a democracy we can’t do without them.
Question: What is your message to all Africans who are still being denied access to justice or have lost trust in our judicial systems across the continent? ?
The core problem of Africa and it people is less of the judicial system and more of incompetent predatory governments that have failed to dismantle colonial economic patterns and instead have been totally devoured by pandemic selfishness and accumulation that has ousted the high goals of our liberation struggles across the continent. Look how poor and underdeveloped the vast majority of the people of our continent still are.
Question: Should your readers expect another book in the near future?
I don’t think they should. But then the future is always unknown.
Ntate Moseneke, thank you so much for your valuable time.
Go leboga Nna.