South Africa appoints a preacher to the court

South Africa's newest chief justice, Mogoeng Mogoeng, is a controversial pastor with some very divisive views

Preacher in the court

Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

In a notably headstrong move, South African President Jacob Zuma two weeks ago chose a controversial pastor to lead his nation’s highest court for the next 10 years. Mogoeng Mogoeng, 50, a judge who belongs to a church that claims homosexuality is a “deviation” curable by prayer, told an interview panel that he’d been chosen by God to serve as chief justice of the country’s Constitutional Court.

Opposition parties, legal associations, and women’s and gay rights groups objected to his candidacy, citing past rulings they called homophobic and insensitive to violence against women (in a country with shockingly high rates of sexual assault). In one example, in 2007 Mogoeng suspended the sentence of a man who had tried to rape his estranged wife, arguing he had used “minimum force” and had been “aroused” by the victim, who was “clad in panties and a nightdress.” The judge countered that other, harsher rulings by him had been deliberately overlooked.

Mogoeng, who will also head the commission that recommends further judicial appointees, was the only nominee for the position. At least one rights group, AfriForum, has said it is looking into launching a legal challenge of the selection process.

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