/ 3 June 2008

Call for Hlophe to step down

Cape Judge President John Hlophe should step down from his post until the latest complaint against him has been resolved, according to the Cape Bar Council.

”It would be untenable for Judge Hlophe to continue in office pending the determination of the complaint by the Judicial Services Commission [JSC],” council chairperson Rudi van Rooyen and his deputy, Ashton Schippers, said in a statement released on Tuesday.

They said that to safeguard public confidence in the independence of the judiciary, the council had asked the JSC to ”facilitate Judge Hlophe’s absence from office” pending the determination of the complaint.

They said the council was encouraged by reports that the JSC was to deal with the complaint as a matter of urgency.

The council represents advocates.

Last week Constitutional Court judges accused Hlophe of attempting to influence the 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.

The judges said Hlophe had tried to influence the bench in an ”improper manner”.

The complaint has been referred to the JSC, which is trying to arrange an urgent meeting to deal with it.

On Monday, the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA), representing attorneys, said the JSC had to deal with the complaint swiftly.

”The LSSA has no doubt that the Constitutional Court judges considered the matter carefully before lodging the complaint with the JSC,” said the society’s co-chairpersons, CP Fourie and Vincent Saldanha.

”The JSC is the constitutionally appropriate body to deal with complaints of alleged judicial misconduct, and the LSSA urges the JSC to deal with the matter expeditiously in view of the seriousness of the complaint,” they said.

Political parties on Sunday said that Hlophe must step down.

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

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.” — Sapa