M&G stands by Hlophe article

The Mail & Guardian said it stands by a report on August 7 about Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe after the judge laid a complaint with the press ombudsman.

Hlophe said on Friday he had filed a formal complaint, accusing the M&G of lying on four counts in the “defamatory” article about him.

“It is with great shock and horror that I read a report in the Mail & Guardian dated August 7 2009 that falsely and untruthfully represented me in great detail,” he wrote to the ombudsman in his statement.

Hlophe said he never granted the M&G an exclusive interview, as the article was portrayed, and denied having told the reporter, Sello Alcock, that he refused to shake Chief Justice Pius Langa’s hand because “I am not going to shake a white man’s hand” as the article claimed he said.

He said he never described the Constitutional Court as “green robes, white justice” and having “sold out by perpetuating Eurocentric jurisprudence” and denied stating that Zulu King Zwelethini was sent into exile for his own safety as his uncle, Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthi Buthelezi had regal ambitions.

M&G editor Nic Dawes said on Saturday that Alcock stood by his version of events, as did the M&G.

“We look forward to the opportunity to thoroughly interrogate judge Hlophe’s allegations before the press ombudsman,” he said.

Hlophe said Alcock sent him an SMS two days after the article was published, in which he offered to retract it.

The SMS read as follows, Hlophe said: “Thanks JP for the frank conversation this afternoon. I think as a matter of principle the fact that you were not aware that I was interviewing you while I thought I was nullifies the article and challenges my integrity as well.

“I will have a discussion with my employees [sic] for a retraction on that basis and I want you to know that my intentions were pure.”

Alcock did not take notes or use a tape recorder when he spoke to Hlophe over dinner with friends of the embattled judge president, and transcribed the conversation after he left the restaurant.

Hlophe attached supporting affidavits from four friends who attended the dinner at the Marcos restaurant in Cape Town.

One of them, Jabulani Ntshangase, said Alcock had behaved in a “despicable” manner by reporting on a private dinner without making clear that he would.

He questioned Alcock’s ability to accurately recall “an unstructured dinner conversation” and said he never heard Hlophe make the remarks quoted in the newspaper, including the “blatant lie” that he said the Constitutional Court had sold out.

“If he had merely gatecrashed on a dinner and then reported correctly, I would still have found it despicable but tolerable,” said Ntshangashe, whose version of events was supported by the other three affidavits.

Hlophe contends that the article was intended to cause him harm, and did in fact do so as the quote about refusing to shake a white man’s hand prompted a complaint by AfriForum to the Judicial Service Commission.

Hlophe has for more than a year battled misconduct charges from Constitutional Court judges who claimed he tried to influence judgements relating to the now abandoned corruption case against President Jacob Zuma.

The JSC last Saturday took a decision on whether to relaunch a full inquiry into the matter, but has yet to announce it.

Hlophe was nominated for a position on the Constitutional Court in October. - Sapa

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