Gratuitous insults said to be rooted in ‘colonial racist heritage’
Twenty advocates, including six senior counsel, have come out in defence of Dali Mpofu SC in response to an opinion piece by Media24 editor-in-chief Adriaan Basson which referred to Mpofu as a “nincompoop” and “scoundrel”.
Basson was commenting on last week’s Judicial Service Commission (JSC) interviews of candidates for chief justice.
Some of Mpofu’s questions to candidates have been publicly criticised, in particular questions to Gauteng judge president Dunstan Mlambo about “rumours” of sexual harassment, with no evidence put forward to support them. The questions were eventually disallowed and ruled as expunged from the record by JSC chair and Supreme Court of Appeal deputy president Xola Petse.
Mpofu also joked he had spent a night with Supreme Court of Appeal president Mandisa Maya, later clarifying it was an all-night study session.
Basson said when Mpofu opened his mouth “it’s all bile and bullshit”, and the denigration of Mlambo would “go down in history as one of the lowest moments of our democratic dispensation”.
He said it was an indictment on the legal profession that Mpofu was on the JSC representing the advocates’ profession, in particular Advocates for Transformation, which in previous years “was led by legal heavyweights like Ishmael Semenya, Dumisa Ntsebeza and Patric Mtshaulana”.
Ntsebeza was one of the senior counsel who put their name to the statement. The other silks were Muzi Sikhakhane SC, Fana Nalane SC, Thabani Masuku SC, Elizabeth Baloyi-Mere SC and Mahlape Sello SC. Also on the list is former national director of public prosecutions Menzi Simelane and former deputy national director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba.
The statement said while Basson was entitled to differ with Mpofu, his gratuitous insults were rooted in a “colonial racist heritage”.
“What inspires the insults? It comes from the same people, who, not so long ago lynched minister Lindiwe Sisulu when she expressed a world view that does not coincide with theirs,” the statement reads.
This was an apparent reference to the criticism directed at Sisulu after she wrote an opinion piece that questioned what the constitution had done for SA other than act as “a palliative” and called the country’s judges “house negroes” who were “only too happy to lick the spittle of those who falsely claim superiority”.
No white professional, no matter how uncultured, and no matter who they represent, has had to endure these kind of insults.
The statement said many, like Basson, were unhappy an African woman was recommended for chief justice and had “conjured up a plethora of excuses and feeble legal argument to justify what is at best their displeasure, or at worst, their prejudice”. It were these “super democrats” who were driven by misogyny, and not Mpofu, said the statement.
The advocates said they were disappointed with the language used by Basson, adding his insults were part of a culture reserved for black professionals.
“No white professional, no matter how uncultured, and no matter who they represent, has had to endure these kind of insults.”
The statement said Basson had tried to draw a line between Ntsebeza, Semenya and Mtshaulana on the one hand and Mpofu on the other — “the old condescending device by white power when insulting us”. But “Ntsebeza, Semenya and Mtshaulana can never join him as he insults one of their own”, said the statement.
Semenya could not be reached for comment. Mtshaulana said he was not approached to endorse the statement, had not read Basson’s article and did not know about the statement until he was contacted by TimesLIVE.
Basson said his article spoke for itself.
“The writers of the statement are entitled to their views as I am under section 16 [of the constitution],” he said.