/ 21 August 2009

Hlophe’s lawyer lashes out at ‘old man’ Kriegler

Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe’s lawyer lashed out at former Constitutional Court judge Johann Kriegler on Friday, calling him an ”old man” who has made ”disturbing comments” about his client.

”Clearly the old man is mistaken,” Hlophe’s lawyer Barnabas Xulu told SABC radio.

He was reacting to Kriegler’s statements earlier this week that the independence of the judiciary was being threatened by transformation.

Kriegler also made comments about Hlophe, who is waiting to hear if the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) is going ahead with an inquiry into allegations that he tried to interfere in a Constitutional Court ruling involving President Jacob Zuma.

”To me, it’s a pretty sad case of a very promising, bright young man who was promoted too quickly, given too much power and it went to his head. That’s the way I sum up that one,” Kriegler said about Hlophe.

But Xulu said Kriegler was ”already making conclusions about a matter that is still pending …

”We are very disturbed by his comments … the constitutionally mandated body is still considering the matter. He [Kriegler] is interfering, using his status as a former judge. It’s very disturbing … we could not expect someone like him to do what he is doing right now,” said Xulu.

He expressed confidence that the JSC would find in favour of Hlophe.

”The main witness of the complainant, being Judge [Chris] Jafta, who on the last occasion, when we gave evidence, he said he didn’t believe that JP Hlophe was attempting to influence him to decide in favour of the president of this country …

”Then how can we believe the evidence of someone who said, ‘I relied on what I was told by Judge Jafta’?”

JSC spokesperson Marumo Moerane told the SABC the JSC had already taken a decision on the matter, but that it would only be made public once all its reasons had been put on paper.

”We did come to a decision, but we decided the decision would be released together with the reasons for the decision, and the reasons are the written reasons.

”What’s happening right now … a draft of those reasons is being circulated among the 10 members of the JSC,” said Moerane.

Xulu said his understanding was that the ”outcome would be about what the full commission is going to make. It’s not only about the three-man committee.”

A three-man subcommittee and fellow JSC members met on Saturday to decide how to proceed with a complaint by the Constitutional Court judges against Hlophe.

Their options were to hold a formal inquiry into allegations that Hlophe tried to influence two judges on rulings relating to the now abandoned corruption case against Zuma, or to drop the charges that have haunted Hlophe for more than a year. — Sapa