/ 2 June 2008

Political parties suggest Hlophe should step down

Cape Town Judge President John Hlophe must step down, political parties said on Sunday.

”Judge Hlophe must do the right thing and step down forthwith,” Democratic Alliance leader, Helen Zille said.

Zille said she would write to the Judicial Service Commission’s (JSC) presiding officer, Chief Justice Pius Langa on Monday, urging him to expedite investigation into Judge Hlophe.

Said the Independent Democrats leader, Patricia De Lille: ”If the allegations against Cape Judge President John Hlophe are true, then the we believe he must be impeached.”

The African Christian Democratic Party urged Hlophe to step down as a judge or be relieved of his duties pending the outcome of an inquiry.

”He must step down as a judge or be relieved of his duties pending the outcome of an inquiry. We trust that the commission will show greater urgency and transparency in dealing with this very serious matter.”

Hlophe is accused of attempting to influence the Constitutional Court’s decision over search-and-seizure raids carried out by the Scorpions on properties of African National Congress president Jacob Zuma and French arms manufacturing giant Thint.

On Friday, the Constitutional Court released a statement that a complaint had been referred to the JSC following allegations that ”Judge John Hlophe, has approached some of the judges of the Constitutional Court in an improper attempt to influence this court’s pending judgement in one or more cases …”

The statement did not reveal which of the 11 Constitutional Court judges had allegedly been approached by Hlophe, but it did say that ”the complaint relates to the matters of Thint (Pty) Ltd v National Director of Public Prosecutions and Others (CCT 89/07), JG Zuma and Another v National Director of Public Prosecutions and Others (CCT 91/07), Thint Holdings (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd and Another v National Director of Public Prosecutions (CCT 90/07) and JG Zuma v National Director of Public Prosecutions (CCT 92/07).”

The cases were heard by the court in Johannesburg between March 11 and March 14 and related to controversial search-and-seizure raids at properties belonging to Zuma in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal and at the Durban office of his attorney Michael Hulley on August 18 2005.

A ruling has yet to be made.

Zuma, Hulley and Thint have argued that they should be granted leave to appeal against a November 8 2006, majority judgement of the Supreme Court of Appeal that upheld the raids.

The raids were carried out two months after judge Hilary Squires convicted Zuma’s former confidante and financial adviser Schabir Shaik on two counts of corruption and one count of fraud in the Durban High Court.

The corruption charges related to Shaik’s attempt to solicit a R500 000 a year bribe from French arms manufacturing giant Thales International (formerly Thomson CSF) for Zuma.

The Constitutional Court statement said: ”We stress that there is no suggestion that any of the litigants in the cases referred to … was aware of or instigated this action.”

It further said: ”The judges of this court view conduct of this nature in a very serious light.” – Sapa