No split among judges on Hlophe complaint

2008-06-17 00:00

The two Constitutional Court judges at the centre of the complaint against Cape Judge President John Hlophe will testify against Hlophe before the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) if asked to do so.

The legal representative for judges Bess Nkabinde and Chris Jafta, Advocate Reggie Tokota SC, yesterday confirmed that any claims about tensions between his clients and the rest of the court’s judges are “sheer nonsense”.

He said he has not received any specific instructions from Nkabinde and Jafta about testifying before the JSC. “However, I do not for one moment doubt that they will be willing to talk to the JSC about Judge Hlophe if the JSC should invite them to do so.”

He said Nkabinde and Jafta never told the JSC they would not be prepared to testify before the JSC. He said people making such claims are spreading untruths.

The two judges merely gave a statement to the JSC saying they would not submit specific statements to that body, Tokota said. The words “testify” and “evidence” did not appear anywhere in their JSC statement. Any suggestion that they would have to be subpoenaed to testify before the JSC were therefore totally inappropriate.

Tokota said his clients’ statement to the JSC does not contradict what they originally told Chief Justice Pius Langa.

When they informed Judge Langa about the alleged approach by Hlophe over the case involving documents seized from ANC president Jacob Zuma, they also told him they would not lay charges in their personal capacities, but that Judge Langa was free to repeat their statement and to use it as he saw fit.

“Judges Nkabinde and Jafta and I would highly appreciate it if people will now stop looking for problems where no problems exist, and allow the JSC to investigate the Hlophe case,” said Tokota.

This confirmation that Nkabinde and Jafta will play an important role in the charge laid against Hlophe with the JSC by the full bench of the Constitutional Court came even as a second meeting of the judges was being held yesterday. They also met on Monday.

Nkabinde and Jafta were at the meeting, but at the time of going to press no statement had been issued.

Most of the judges had left by lunchtime.

“I also do not believe there will be a statement. Everything is peaceful and calm at the court,” a court source said yesterday.

Sapa reports that the JSC received a 27-page document relating to the complaint yesterday.

“What we received is a response from the chief justice on behalf of all the judges of the court,” said JSC spokesman advocate Marumo Moerane.

He would not elaborate on the contents, other than to say: “It’s the sort of thing that was called on the Constitutional Court to provide.

“Judge Hlophe will be called on within 10 days to give his response. After that the Constitutional Court has five days to react to his response. We will meet on July 5 to deliberate on all these papers.”

Moerane said he believes Langa has recused himself from the JSC chair for the matter.

“He has asked judge president [Craig] Howie to chair the commission,” said Moerane.

Justice Minister Brigitte Mabandla said she will not interfere with “developments” involving the Constitutional Court.

Following the Constitutional Court complaint, Hlophe lodged a complaint with the JSC against the Constitutional Court on the grounds that its going public with the allegation violated his rights and did not follow a fair process.

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