Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe.
Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe.

Judge President John Hlophe hits back at tribunal

By Mphathi Nxumalo Time of article published Apr 15, 2021

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DURBAN - WESTERN Cape Judge President John Hlophe responded to the Judicial Conduct Tribunal’s finding that he was guilty of gross misconduct saying he disagreed.

In a media statement released on Tuesday, Judge Hlophe, through his Durban-based lawyer Barnabas Xulu, pointed to a number of issues concerning how the tribunal dealt with his matter.

The matter stemmed from 2008 when Hlophe allegedly tried to influence Constitutional Court Justices Chris Jafta and Bess Nkabinde on matters that dealt with former president Jacob Zuma and French arms company Thint, in which Zuma was accused of accepting bribes. On Saturday night, the tribunal announced its finding, saying Hlophe threatened the impartiality, dignity and public confidence in the judicial system.

The matter was then referred to the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) who will deliberate on the tribunal’s report.

“Hlophe’s view is that the tribunal’s decision was not based on the evidence but considerations that were irrelevant to the facts.

“It is important to recall that the same evidence which the Tribunal had to consider has been dealt with by the JSC in a well-reasoned judgment dated August 28, 2009 which was set aside on the basis of a technicality and not the merits of its findings on the evidence,” says the statement.

Hlophe said he had never sought to influence or persuade any judges of the Concourt to violate their oath of office.

“The Tribunal appears to have endorsed the partisan views of a retired Justice of the Constitutional Court Mr Kriegler and his organisation Freedom Under Law (FUL) who engaged in a spirited campaign against Judge President Hlophe,” read the statement.

Hlophe said it was not only Kriegler's view that the Tribunal endorsed, but also a certain political party that portrayed him as an ANC deployee.

“While these outfits celebrate the ruling of the tribunal, Judge President Hlophe is determined to vindicate his name and in so doing, will demonstrate how this findings does not correctly reflect the law and is not based on the facts presented to it.”

Non-profit organisations argued that the contents of the media statement said nothing new as they had been said in presentations to the tribunal.

Lawson Naidoo, executive secretary of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution, said Hlophe would be given an opportunity to present his case at the JSC and that Hlophe’s statement said nothing new.

According to Naidoo, Hlophe faced a “fairly strong possibility of impeachment”.

“This is based on how strong the case was against Hlophe and it will be hard for the JSC to deviate from what the Tribunal said.

“In the end it would be up to Parliament to make the decision on whether or not to impeach Hlophe,” Naidoo said.

Former Concourt judge and Freedom Under Law chairperson Johann Kriegler said there was nothing in the media statement that called for him to respond.

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