Zuma appoints controversial Judge Mogoeng to top post

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President Zuma and Judge Mogoeng (8 September)Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
President Zuma appointed Judge Mogoeng Mogoeng (r) as chief justice despite strong opposition

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma has appointed a judge who is an ordained pastor with controversial views on rape and homosexuality as chief justice.

Lobby groups had urged Mr Zuma not to appoint Judge Mogoeng Mogoeng as South Africa's top judge, saying he was lenient on rapists, which he denies.

South Africa has one of the world's highest incidences of rape.

Mr Zuma said he was confident that with Judge Mogoeng at the helm, the judiciary was in good hands.

Last week, Judge Mogoeng said God wanted him to be chief justice.

Judge Mogoeng had served on the Constitutional Court since 2009 and had previously been the president of the High Court in North West province.

'Myths about rape'

Many of South Africa's top lawyers - backed by human rights groups and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) - had opposed his nomination during public hearings.

Earlier this week, the Nobel Women's Initiative - which includes peace laureates Shirin Ebadi of Iran, Mairead Maguire of Ireland and Jody Williams of the US - threw their weight behind the anti-Mogoeng campaign.

Some 55,000 women a year report being raped in South Africa, the police say.

"Many of his rulings have undermined the severity of the crime of rape and its consequences for victims and invoke dangerous myths about rape that often blame the victims themselves and excuse perpetrators of egregious crimes," they said in a statement.

In 2004, Judge Mogoeng reduced the sentence of a man convicted of raping a seven-year-old girl from life imprisonment to 18 years, the minimum.

A year later, he reduced the jail sentence of a man who had attempted to rape a seven-year-old girl from five years to two years.

In one ruling, Judge Mogoeng excused a husband who raped his wife, saying the man had been tempted because the woman was wearing a nightdress and pants, the AP news agency reports.

He also suggested that sex between a husband and his wife could not be considered rape, AP reports.

During his nomination hearing last week, Judge Mogoeng denied he was insensitive to rape.

He said he had also increased the sentences of rapists - in some cases to life imprisonment.

Judge Mogoeng - who is an ordained pastor with the Winners Chapel International, which condemns homosexuality - said he would uphold South Africa's constitution, which respects gay rights.

"When a position comes like this one, I wouldn't take it unless I had prayed and satisfied myself that God wants me to take it," Judge Mogoeng said during his nomination hearing.

Murder rate falls

Judge Mogoeng was a member of South Africa's Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) during white minority rule, which ended in 1994.

During the anti-apartheid struggle, he mediated in conflicts between members of the BCM and the African National Congress (ANC), the main liberation movement which is now in power, analysts say.

His nomination came on the day South Africa's Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said the police were not winning the war against rape.

He said rape had increased since last year, but other crimes had decreased in South Africa.

The murder rate had dropped by 6.5% in the 12 months to April, Mr Mthethwa said.

Police Commissioner Gen Bheki Cele said higher police visibility was one of the main reasons for the overall fall in crime.

In 1994, more than 27,000 murders were reported in South Africa. This year, number had dropped to just under 16,000, he said.

Mr Zuma's government has been under intense pressure to tackle crime as South Africa has one of the highest murder and rape rates in the world, analysts say.

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