It is with great dismay that we learnt of the complaint filed by the Zionist Federation of South Africa at the Judicial Services Commission against retired Judge Desai. The Zionist Federation accuses Judge Desai of conduct “entirely unbecoming of a judicial officer” and questions his appointment to the office of Legal Services Ombud by President Ramaphosa. The timing of the complaint coming as it does on the heels of massive worldwide outrage at the killing of 267 Palestinians including 27 children carried out by the Israeli army and the marches in solidarity with the people of Palestine held across our country, all point to an attempt by the Zionist Federation to deflect attention from the atrocities committed by Israel in Occupied Palestine.
The Zionist Federation has singled out Judge Desai for an unwarranted and vitriolic attack based on his principled stand against the forces of oppression under apartheid in South Africa and in Occupied Palestine. As an advocate, he traversed the entire country for roughly 15 years and dealt with cases in in many parts of the country. His clients were the poor and anti-apartheid activists. As a judge he has made several landmark rulings and has presided over some of the biggest trials in the country. During his time on the bench Judge Desai did not forget his roots and gave freely of his time to advise civil society organisations in the human rights sector involved in addressing issues of inequality, poverty, homelessness and joblessness. Judge Desai served with distinction on the Board of the Foundation for Human Rights. The Foundation for Human Rights (the Foundation) was established in 1996 by the European Union and the Government of South Africa to address the historical legacy of apartheid, to promote and advance transformation in the country and to build a human rights culture using the Constitution as a tool. The FHR’s mission since its inception in 1996, has resonated with the human rights values held in high esteem by Judge Desai.
The complaint by the Zionist Federation will not intimidate freedom loving South Africans from voicing their opposition to the intention of the Israel Apartheid state to turn the West Bank and Gaza into Bantustans and to legitimize the oppression of the Palestinian people under apartheid laws which strip Palestinians of their humanity and dignity, nor will it silence Judge Desai from speaking out against Zionist aggression and intimidation. The Foundation for Human Rights calls on the legal fraternity and all freedom loving South Africans to declare their unconditional support for Judge Desai and join our call to the Judicial Services Commission to dismiss the unfounded charges levelled against Judge Desai by the Zionist Federation and furthermore dismiss with contempt any attempts by the Zionist Federation to interfere in the independence of the judiciary.
We are bound to continue with the struggle against inequality, poverty and oppression anywhere in the world. Our beloved former President Nelson Mandela reminded us that: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”
Ms. Lindiwe Sibiya