Hlophe grilled by JSC

Western Cape Judge President Hlophe said he would ‘love” to be part of the Constitutional Court during his interview for a post on the bench by the Judicial Service Commission on Sunday.

‘I would love to be part of the team of judges who sit on the Constitutional Court bench and make a contribution in terms of developing constitutional law,” said Hlophe after receiving a round of applause from a small group of supporters wearing T-shirts with pictures of his face printed on them.

Hlophe has been caught up in a complaint and counter-complaint relating to allegations that he made inappropriate approaches to two judges last year dealing with a now abandoned corruption case against President Jacob Zuma.

The JSC decided after a preliminary inquiry that there was no need for a full investigation, and Hlophe’s life changed from facing being removed as a judge, to being a candidate for chief justice as head of the Constitutional Court.

He lost the chief justice post when Zuma nominated Constitutional Court judge Sandile Ngcobo, and he was then nominated by supporters for one of the four positions on the court’s bench.

He said the JSC matter was not personal, but was one of principle and that he was on good terms with the judges there.

‘We had a fight. It was never personal right from the beginning,” he said, explaining that he was just exercising the rights that every South African had when he complained about the judges making their complaint public before he could answer them.

‘In my mind Mr Burgess, I have put this behind me,” he said in response to a question by JSC representative Cecil Burgess, who was chosen from the ANC in Parliament and believed they would be able to work in a ‘collegial” way.

He rejected a suggestion by Burgess that ‘newspapers say you are racist and you don’t like white people”.

He cited two judgements—one in which he ruled against a person who did not want his case heard by a white judge, and the other of the person accused of murdering former first lady Marike de Klerk.

He visited white people, they visited him, they gave lifts to each other’s children and had each other’s children visit at their homes.

‘So, I am not a racist, I deny it.”

Hlophe, who holds a doctorate from Cambridge said he did not know Percy Gumbi, who lobbied for him under the ‘Justice for Hlophe Alliance”.

The room was cleared of the media and public during questioning on his dealings with the company Oasis.

Independent Democrats leader Patricia De Lille had asked him to describe the terms of his retainer with the company to help her understand the matter.

But some of the commissioners objected, saying that the JSC had already dealt with this matter.

But De Lille and the Inkatha Freedom Party’s Koos van der Merve said it was important to be able to ask questions in public on this issue.

Advocate Isak Smuts had also wanted Hlophe to explain the apparent contradiction that his “fight” with the Constitutional Court Judges was not personal.

Smuts said that during the JSC preliminary enquiry Hlophe had made certain statements about the judges.

After some debate the Supreme Court of Appeal Judge President Lex Mpati said he had wanted to avoid such arguments.
- Sapa