Judge Hlophe apologises to Surty

Cape Judge President John Hlophe has apologised to Justice Minister Enver Surty for appearing to undermine the integrity of the judicial system.

The justice ministry said on Thursday this was the latest development in an impasse over whether or not Hlophe was entitled to return to work from special leave.

Hlophe and Surty met on Wednesday evening to discuss the controversy caused by Hlophe’s unexpected return to work from special leave at the beginning of February, said justice spokesperson Zolile Nqayi.

This came after Hlophe was quoted as saying he was exercising his right to work.

Nqayi said Hlophe told the minister he was aware that he had placed the minister and the ministry “under extreme pressure”.

Hlophe took leave in June 2008 after Constitutional Court judges lodged a complaint to the Judicial Services Commission against him for allegedly making what they regarded as inappropriate approaches regarding their pending judgement on African National Congress president Jacob Zuma.

Nqayi said Hlophe tendered his “sincere apologies” on Wednesday night and undertook to cooperate to ensure the integrity of the judicial office was preserved.

Surty and Hlophe agreed there were different regulations governing special leave, and the minister said he would apply his mind to written and oral submissions presented on the matter by Hlophe.

“The minister asked him to consider remaining on special leave. The judge president is considering this,” said Nqayi, reading from a statement.

Hlophe was not immediately available to comment.

Meanwhile, the next round in the legal battle is expected to be fought next month.

Hlophe’s return to work caused a stir with the General Council of the Bar saying he should stay on leave until the JSC had adjudicated the complaint.

The JSC has decided to hold off until the court processes are completed.

Last year, the Johannesburg High Court ruled that the Constitutional Court judges had infringed on his dignity by making the complaint public.

The Constitutional Court judges’ appeal against this judgement will be heard by Supreme Court of Appeal on March 23. - Sapa

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