/ 3 September 2009

Kriegler to challenge Hlophe decision

Former Constitutional Court judge Johann Kriegler will announce an intention to legally challenge the decision not to proceed with a misconduct probe into Cape Judge President John Hlophe.

A news briefing on the matter would be held on Thursday to provide further details, his spokesperson, Niall Gahan, said on Wednesday.

Kriegler is seeking a legal remedy on behalf of a non-government body, Freedom Under Law (FUL), of which he is chairperson of the board of directors.

Launched in January, the organisation is registered in South Africa and Switzerland is aimed at promoting democracy under the law, ”and to advance the understanding and respect of the rule of law and the principle of legality”, a note on its website reads.

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) last week announced its decision not to proceed with a probe into allegations that Hlophe tried to influence Constitutional Court judges in a matter relating to President Jacob Zuma.

The Justice Department on Wednesday said the Cape judge president would be returning to work on Monday after he was placed on special leave in May 2008.

The JSC criticised Hlophe for raising pending judgements in Zuma’s former corruption case with Constitutional Court judges Bess Nkabinde and Chris Jafta, but said it did not find evidence that he tried to influence them.

Opposition political parties condemned the decision.

In a public lecture last month, Kriegler described Hlophe as a ”manifestation of the problem” with the judiciary, warning that judicial independence should not be sacrificed on the ”altar of transformation”.

Hlophe was recently nominated for a post as Constitutional Court judge.

His supporters hoped he would fill the shoes of Chief Justice Pius Langa when the latter retires later this year.

He was described by the Justice for Hlophe Alliance — a lobby group supporting the Cape judge president — as the best candidate to promote transformation of the judiciary in the country.

However, Zuma last month nominated Judge Sandile Ngcobo for the post.

Other FUL directors include Elize Angula, a director of LorentzAngula Incorporated, practising in commercial litigation, human rights law and family law; former dean of law at the University of Cape Town Professor Hugh Corder; Ezra Davids, a partner in and head of Bowman Gilfillan’s corporate department; and Jeremy Gauntlett SC, co-chair of the IBA’s Forum for Barristers and Advocates.

Its international advisory board includes Sir Sydney Kentridge, a member of Nelson Mandela’s defence team in 1961, businessman Cyril Ramaphosa, Dr Mamphela Ramphele, former attorney general to India Soli Sorabjee SC, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. — Sapa