DA joins call for JSC's Hlophe hearing to be open

The Democratic Alliance (DA) joined the call on Monday for the Judicial Service Commission’s (JSC) hearings into the complaint against Judge John Hlophe to be open to the public.

“It is more than a little disappointing that after ruling that it was in the public interest to investigate the complaint against Judge Hlophe, the JSC has now also ruled that the public will be barred from attending this hearing,” DA spokesperson Len Joubert said.

The DA, like the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI), has written to the JSC asking for reasons.

The African Christian Democratic Party also want the hearings, expected to begin on Wednesday, to be open.

The JSC said on Saturday that the hearing into Hlophe’s alleged interference with a Constitutional Court decision on African National Congress president Jacob Zuma’s challenge to search-and-seizure warrants would be closed.

On Monday advocate Marumo Moerane, spokesperson for the JSC, said a statement providing reasons would be issued either during the day or on Tuesday.

“Unfortunately I can’t comment at all on the reasons at the moment,” he said.

Last June the Constitutional Court complained that Hlophe allegedly tried to influence Justice Bess Nkabinde and Acting Justice Chris Jafta.

The High Court in Johannesburg had since ruled that the Constitutional Court breached Hlophe’s right to dignity and equal treatment when it issued a media statement on the issue.

However, it also ruled that it was in the public interest for the JSC to probe the complaint.

Last July the FXI wrote to the JSC asking that the hearings be open.

The FXI said the public’s understanding of the matter would be enhanced by openness.

It said the JSC, as an organ of state, was bound by the principle of openness “which permeates the Constitution”.

“As the body constitutionally charged with adjudicating complaints against judges, the JSC is responsible for preserving the integrity of the judiciary as a whole,” their submission to the JSC at that time read.

They said the JSC was responsible for ensuring the institutional protection of the judiciary and, with it, public perceptions of the judiciary.

Openness would help the public understand the conclusion, and they could see for themselves that ethical standards had been maintained.

Hlophe is on special leave. He caused a stir when he returned to work in February, but left soon after, apologising for potentially embarrassing the judiciary with this unexpected turn of events.—Sapa

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