/ 7 September 2009

Kriegler’s ‘condescending attitude’ slammed

Former judge Johann Kriegler has a condescending attitude toward black people, said Judicial Service Commission (JSC) member advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza, SC.

”It is impossible to live with the very obvious condescending attitude toward black people which has become a repeated theme in his [Kriegler’s] statements,” Ntsebeza told Beeld newspaper.

”He [Kriegler] is in essence saying that all black judges were appointed because they are black and not on merit.”

Ntsebeza has resigned from the Freedom Under Law (FUL) body, which is headed by Kriegler, a former Constitutional Court judge.

Kriegler announced last week that he intended challenging the JSC’s decision not to probe Cape Judge President John Hlophe, who was accused of gross misconduct by the current judges of the Constitutional Court.

Ntsebeza, who resigned from FUL alongside Cyril Ramaphosa and Johannesburg High Court Acting Judge Kgomotso Moroka, said he was concerned about Kriegler’s ”public campaign against Hlophe”.

Hlophe was accused of trying to interfere in a pending judgement by the Constitutional Court in a case related to President Jacob Zuma.

Kriegler said he needed to challenge the JSC decision because it was ”the biggest threat to rule of law the country has experienced since it emerged from darkness”.

‘JSC has been effectively nobbled’
The Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Congress of the People (Cope) on Friday welcomed Kriegler’s legal challenge to the dismissal of the misconduct complaint against Hlophe.

”Judge Kriegler’s application for review is an excellent remedy and reproach,” DA justice spokesperson Dene Smuts said.

Cope’s communications chief, Phillip Dexter, said he agreed with Kriegler that by failing to institute a full investigation into the complaint by the Constitutional Court against Hlophe, the JSC had failed South Africans.

”The JSC has been effectively nobbled, ensuring that it takes political rather than legal decisions,” Dexter said.

Kriegler said the dispute between Hlophe and the Constitutional Court over whether he tried to influence pending court rulings in favour of Zuma last year before he became president could only be resolved through cross-examination.

He has made it clear that his aim was not to have Hlophe impeached, but to compel the JSC to do its duty.

Back at work
Meanwhile, Hlophe was back at work in his high court office on Monday, his secretary said.

Hlophe went on special leave in June last year, pending the JSC decision on the misconduct complaint against him. Apart from an abortive attempt to return to work in February, which was quashed by then-justice minister Enver Surty, he has been off work since then.

The complaint was that Hlophe allegedly tried to improperly influence Constitutional Court judges who were weighing up a decision on President Jacob Zuma’s corruption case, which had since been dropped.

Hlophe’s deputy, Jeanette Traverso, has been acting as judge president in his absence. — Sapa