Further delays in Hlophe case may undermine public trust

Cape Judge President John Hlophe. (Oupa Nkosi)

Cape Judge President John Hlophe. (Oupa Nkosi)

Further delay in the judicial misconduct probe into Cape Judge President John Hlophe will undermine the public's faith in the trial, a tribunal heard on Monday.

"We are ready to go, we are anxious to go, we want to bring this to a timely conclusion," Courtenay Griffiths QC, for Hlophe, told the tribunal.

"[However] it has to be done properly in accordance with the law and we submit that that is not the case."

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Griffiths said evidence placed before previous hearings into the matter had not been tested.

He was arguing during a Judicial Service Commission (JSC) tribunal hearing into a complaint of judicial misconduct against Hlophe.

Hlophe allegedly tried to influence Constitutional Court judges Chris Jafta and Bess Nkabinde in a legal matter.

In 2008, the two judges alleged that Hlophe broached the subject of the pending judgment relating to President Jacob Zuma in his corruption case involving the multi-billion rand arms deal, with them.

The judges regarded this as an improper attempt to influence the case and a complaint was lodged.

Hlophe, affronted that the judges had sent a copy of the complaint to the media before he had time to respond to it, laid a counter-complaint.

A lengthy stop-start parallel process of JSC hearings and court challenges ensued.

The matter was ultimately heard in the Supreme Court of Appeal with rulings in favour of Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and lobby group Freedom Under Law.

Last October, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said he would formally appoint tribunal members. Hlophe faces impeachment if found guilty.

Griffiths said Jafta and Nkabinde had stated that they did not want to lay a formal complaint against Hlophe.

This was despite a collective complaint lodged by all the Constitutional Court judges at the time.

"The two [Jafta and Nkabinde] lodged a statement placing on record, among other things, that they were not willing to make any statement ... Does the tribunal have the power to force the two justices to make that complaint," he asked.

"How do we get out of this hole?" Earlier, Gilbert Marcus SC, for the Constitutional Court judges excluding Jafta and Nkabinde, said their complaint against Hlophe was valid.

He said six Constitutional Court judges, which included then chief justice Pius Langa, testified in a 2009 JSC hearing on the matter.

The tribunal was adjourned and will continue of Tuesday.
– Sapa

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