Like you and I, judges are mortal

Benzi Ka-Soko

The debate about the criticism levelled at the country's judges has been raging on for some time now. The crux of this debate has been that criticising the highly learned judges is wrong, unlettered, uncouth and dangerous to our constitutional dispensation.

Those making these submissions argue that the office of the judges is sacrosanct, reverent and therefore is beyond reproach.

The question worth asking is: who are the judges? Or, put differently, what is a judge? In simple terms, a judge is a human being, a mortal with all the characteristics of mortality, who is highly trained in the field and profession of law. Full stop.

I know that other people, especially the highly lettered among us, may come with different descriptions and definitions of what a judge really is.

But, the crux of this matter is that there will be general consensus that whoever the judge is, he/she, fundamentally speaking, is and remains a simple human being, a fallible mortal.

Now, despite the fact that these mortals possess high-calibre knowledge and wisdom in the noble profession of law, it remains an indisputable fact of existentialism that they can err, falter, misjudge, mishit, miscalculate and can ill-judge.

Fundamentally, judges, like doctors or scientists, or any specialist, can be wrong because they are mere mortals. And let me mention the fact that it is not necessarily wrong to be wrong, because we are just imperfect mortals striving for perfection.

What I mean is that being wrong should not be so extremely stigmatised to an extent that those who may be wrong on any issue or subject are denigrated and demonised.

So, we should not treat certain people like saints simply because of their knowledge or wisdom in a particular discipline. This assertion also applies to the clergy who, due to their profession or calling of evangelism and gospel spreading, are said and believed to have a closer proximity to God.

It is true that priests, pastors, prophets, and all those who are involved in the field of preaching repentance through the verses and suras of the Holy Bible and the Holy Koran respectively are performing a holy mission, but the fact remains that they are, just like all of us, mortals who can err, falter, lie and of course, misjudge.

The fact that judges often make wrong judgments that can be second-guessed by other judges is clear testimony that they are not omni-intelligent.

I humbly submit that as much as we are obliged to respect honourable judges and their profession, we should guard against according them the status of saints, because doing so will make them untouchable professionals whose utterances, however wrong and miscalculated, should and must be accepted as Gospel Truth.

We should remember that Galileo Galilei was guillotined for differing with the scholars of law and religion, the powers-that-be of that epoch, by arguing that the "Gospel Truth" that the world was flat was actually a fallacy.

He said the world was round. It was only after 100 years that it was proven that Galileo was actually right and correct. Regrettably, he was long dead and therefore unresurrectable.

lThe writer is a Johannesburg-based commentator.