Category Archives: Education

Chief Justice ahead of the times…

Instead of being behind the times, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, is a few steps ahead. Calling for a calm debate on religion and law is revolutionary. From the furore he’s caused, it seems South Africa may not be ready for it.

Exercising his constitutional right to freedom of opinion, Mogoeng recommended that religions should influence the lawmaking process. For example, he reasoned, if laws discouraged adultery, there would be less murders flowing from adultery. Mogoeng also suggested that religion has a role to play in restraining lawlessness. Religions develop social systems and habits that could help eradicate fraud and corruption.

Nor about your religion...

Nor about your religion…

Mogoeng made it clear that he was simply raising these issues. He is in no position to change laws. On the contrary, he is bound, as a Christian, to fulfill his role as Chief Justice and to act in accordance with the constitution. In the past, where the constitution has not agreed with his religious views, he has upheld the constitution.

At the same time, Mogoeng is bound as a Christian to influence society for good. And this is what he wants to debate. He wants all religions to influence the lawmaking process so that good can be promoted in our land. Although religions differ, in the area of moral and social good they often agree. Laws that promote family, or that alleviate poverty are consistent with most religions. So Mogoeng’s call is not exclusive.
Also, the majority of South Africans do claim a religion, so why should they be governed by laws which have not been influenced by religion? This is equivalent to telling people to believe their religion in their homes, but not in the public square. A humanist would want to influence the laws that govern him, why should a religious person not be allowed to want this also? Is that not oppression of religion?

South Africa is a secular state. Some assume this to mean there’s no place for religion, but this is not true. A secular state is neutral in matters of religion, and treats all its citizens equally regardless of religion. So, if the constitution allows us the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion, then why should we not have the right to voice our opinions, based on our religions, about the laws that govern us?
Just because laws have been informed by religion, doesn’t mean laws will be discriminatory. Mogoeng spends half of his speech assuring his listeners of this, at one point saying, “Truly the ‘hallmark of an open and democratic society is its capacity to accommodate and manage differences of intensely-held world views and life styles in a reasonable and fair manner’.”

It could be argued that because of Mogoeng’s influential position he should have kept quiet about his faith. Just letting people know that he is a Christian will make them suspicious of his judgements. This is a fair comment. In fact, his keynote speech at the Conference on Religion and Law is overloaded with Biblical quotes. Enough to make any person of another religion, or non-religion, nervous. But this still doesn’t ruin his main point. Mogoeng believes religion can influence law for the common good in a pluralistic society. Should we dismiss him with some name calling? Or can we, in the true spirit of the constitution and our secular society, enter into some calm


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An inconvenient guy.


Julius Malema is the bogeyman of South African politics at the moment. But perhaps it’s largely due to the fact that he’s put his finger on an inconvenient truth. Published in The Witness and available to read here.

Man in a Red Beret is an Oil Painting by Vincent Van Gogh. Julius Malema has incorporated the red beret into his image as a freedom fighter.

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Filed under Education, History, Politics, Uncategorized, Writing

No such thing as good writing…

“There’s no such thing as good writing, only good re-writing.” Clive Lawrance

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Country of my skull.

Antjie Krog ruined my holiday. Her 1998 book, ‘Country of My Skull’ had been on my to-read list for some time. When I took a few days leave recently, I thought I’d take the opportunity to tick it off. It ticked me off. It gave me nightmares – every night. Horrid ones. Credit to Antjie, she writes well – so well I often didn’t want to stop reading. But it’s the subject matter that’s disturbing. ‘Country of My Skull’ is Krog’s reporting on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a court-like commission tasked with discovering and revealing past injustices that took place under the apartheid government.

I enjoyed the way the book mixed up the often heavy, and sometimes dull, details of the TRC’s findings, with exhilarating real-life stories. It begins with a story of Krog’s brothers shooting at cattle thieves on their farm. This story stands out to me as being particularly insightful into what was going on in South Africa at that time, and to a large degree still is. The books ends with a similar, but different story, of Krog sharing Christmas with her family on their Free State farm. This time instead of being the hunter, they are in fear of being the hunted – there is panic when a car stops outside the farm and a black man approaches the farmhouse. He turns out to be a friend come to wish them a merry Christmas.

This book is crucial to understanding the history of South Africa. Would I recommend it? It’s not for the faint-hearted, but then neither is the history of the world.


Filed under Education, Literature, Uncategorized

By whose authority?

The topic of smoking came up in our home recently. We want our children to learn that at the bottom of any discussion regarding what’s right and what’s wrong is authority- by whose authority is something right or wrong? Our ten year old daughter was on the receiving end of such a lesson and you can read about it here.

The image is entitled “The Smoker” by Stuart L. Crawford.

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Filed under Children, Education, Literature, Uncategorized, Writing

Who is my neighbour?

Omni homini proximus est monis homo, wrote Augustine. “Every man is neighbour to every man”. Sermon 299D1.

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Filed under Classics, Education, Literature, Uncategorized, Writing

Power and duty.

“To govern is to serve, not to rule. There is nothing dangerous in a man’s having as much power as he likes, if he takes the view that he has power to do only what it is his duty to do.” -Seneca

The image is of Michelangelo’s Pieta in St.Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City

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