Judge Mogoeng Mogoeng (Inset)

A gay constitutional expert has expressed concern that President Zuma’s nominee to head up South Africa’s courts may have an overly conservative stance towards LGBT issues.

On Tuesday, Zuma nominated Judge Mogoeng Mogoeng as his preferred candidate for the position of chief justice of South Africa to replace former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo

On his blog, Professor Pierre de Vos, a leading academic in constitutional governance at the University of Cape Town, described Mogoeng as “one of the less suitable candidates for the post”.

Mogoeng, who was appointed to the Constitutional Court in 2009, is an ordained pastor and serves in several church structures.

De Vos said that in his past decisions Mogoeng appears to see freedom of expression as a less primary right than others and also noted his position in a high-profile defamation suit.

In March, the Constitutional Court ruled on the case of three former Pretoria school pupils who were accused of defaming their deputy headmaster by creating doctored photos of him in a gay sexual scenario.

What stood out from the ruling was that the majority of judges affirmed that being depicted as gay is not grounds for defamation; a position that Mogoeng did not support.

“As a gay man and a vocal champion of respect for difference and diversity, I was… deeply disturbed by the decision of the nominee to distance himself from passages in [the] judgment, which found that our Constitution affirms the principle that there is nothing wrong with being gay or lesbian and hence that one cannot be defamed if one is called a homosexual,” wrote De Vos.

He added: “At first glance, the refusal of the nominee to endorse the views of the majority on this point suggests that he does not agree with the long line of precedent on sexual orientation discrimination”.

De Vos warned that if the nomination is confirmed, this “will mean that for the next ten years the South African judiciary will be led by a deeply conservative jurist”.

The chief justice of South Africa exercises final authority over the functioning and management of all the courts in the country and presides over the Constitutional Court.

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