No place for Hlophe on Concourt shortlist

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) on Tuesday finalised its shortlist of the seven judges for four posts on the Constitutional Court.

They are judges Johan Froneman, Raymond Zondo, Mogoeng wa Mogoeng, Mandisa Maya, Sisi Khampepe, Leona Theron and Chris Jafta.

Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe was among those who did not make the list.

Others not shortlisted include lawyers Geoff Budlender and Jeremy Gauntlett and judges Dennis Davis, Kathy Satchwell, Willie Seriti and Dunston Mlambo.

During his interview, Hlophe seemed rattled and was rescued by ANC MP Ngoako Ramatlhodi after an initial request by Gauteng Judge President Bernard Ngoepe that the JSC clear the room to discuss procedural issues.

Chief Justice Pius Langa, however, allowed advocate Izak Smuts, who at the time was questioning Hlophe, to continue. Smuts grilled Hlophe on his racism report and the accusations he levelled at judges of the Constitutional Court.

Before Smuts questioned Hlophe, Hlophe was also asked to account for his alleged indiscretions involving Oasis Asset Management by advocate Hendrik Schmidt.

After Smuts Patricia de Lille had a go at Hlophe, which prompted Ramatlhodi to step in and ask Langa to clear the room so that procedural issues could be discussed as it seemed as if Hlophe was in a court.

The room was eventually cleared after attorney Mvuseni Ngubane also objected.

Langa later ruled that the tough line of questioning on Hlophe could continue.

After his approximately 30 minutes break in the holding room, a much more composed Hlophe returned and refused to answer questions on Oasis put to him by De Lille.

‘We are losing a giant’
The interviews ended on Tuesday afternoon and, said JSC spokesperson Marumo Moerane, the shortlist would be sent to President Jacob Zuma for the final selection.

The judges have to be in place by October, to make sure there is a quorum for judgements.

The candidates had been interviewed by the JSC in front of the public and media at the Walter Sisulu Hall in Kliptown since Sunday.

Constitutional Court judge Sandile Ngcobo was also interviewed after being nominated by Zuma for the post of chief justice when current Chief Justice Langa retires.

Langa was thanked for his “exemplary leadership” at his last sitting as chairperson of the JSC when it finished the interviews on Tuesday.

“It is my view that you have carried the cross with great fortitude and admirable courage, even during turbulent times,” said Ramatlhodi.

Inkatha Freedom Party MP Koos van der Merwe said the party agreed “100%” with Ramatlhodi. “We are losing a giant,” he said.

Langa retires in October.

Langa’s career has included a stint working at a shirt factory before moving through the jobs of court interpreter, court messenger, advocate and magistrate.

His biography on the court’s web page says he was admitted as an advocate of the Supreme Court of South Africa in June 1977 and was one of the first judges of the Constitutional Court.

In 2001 he became deputy chief justice and in 2005, chief justice.

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