What mandate? asks ANC

2008-06-19 00:00

Cape Town — “Mandate, what mandate?” This was the response from the African National Congress as it moved swiftly yesterday to dispel alleged claims by Cape Judge President John Hlophe that he was acting on a “mandate” when he allegedly approached two Constitutional Court judges in a bid to influence the case against ANC president Jacob Zuma.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe yesterday told journalists he knew of no mandate that Hlophe would have in taking up Zuma’s cause, because the judge is not a member of any ANC structures.

The ANC response followed the leaking of a damning 21-page complaint, signed by Chief Justice Pius Langa, which was handed to the Judicial Services Commission this week.

The document detailed how Hlophe allegedly attempted to improperly influence two judges to try and scupper the case against Zuma. One of the allegations is that Hlophe told Constitutional Court judge Bess Nkabinde that he was “connected to members of national intelligence”, and knew what she was working on in relation to the hearings around Zuma’s corruption case.

A further allegation was that Hlophe told acting Judge Chris Jafta, during a visit to his chambers, that he was “our last hope”, in an effort to allegedly try and influence him in the cases involving Zuma.

The Democratic Alliance has requested an urgent meeting with Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils to discuss the latest shocking allegation. The National Intelligence Agency (NIA) has declined to comment on Hlophe’s alleged claim that he had intelligence connections.

The full text of the Constitutional Court’s complaint details how the judges deliberated and proceeded with the complaint against Hlophe.

It reveals how Hlophe insinuated he had a mandate, as well as a link with intelligence structures — and that some individuals would lose their positions after the elections next year.

It alleges that Hlophe said there was no real case against Zuma.

The document says Hlophe approached Jafta at the end of March and Nkabinde on April 23 this year.

Hlophe allegedly told Jafta that “the case against Zuma should be looked at properly” and said in Zulu words to the effect “you are our last hope”.

He allegedly told Nkabinde that he had a mandate to act as he was doing and that the “privilege issue” — one of the grounds on which Zuma’s legal team claimed he could have a chance of success in his cases before the Constitutional Court — had to be “decided properly”.

The privilege matter related to whether the search and seizure warrants issued to raid the offices of Zuma’s attorney, Michael Hulley, were legal.

The document says Nkabinde and Jafta reported the issue to Langa, but said they felt they had dealt with it by rejecting Hlophe’s advances, and did not wish to lay a complaint or make a statement.

However, Langa and his deputy Dikgang Moseneke felt the issue was sufficiently serious that it should be discussed by all the judges, to which Nkabinde and Jafta had no objection. Langa reports that the judges were “shocked and distressed”, and after discussion decided unanimously that the best course of action was to lay a complaint with the Judicial Services Commission, and to issue a press statement.

The Langa document reveals that Hlophe was warned in advance and sent a copy of the complaint.

The document concludes: “It should be noted that this complaint is based on the conduct which the judges of this court view in the most serious possible light. It constitutes a grave threat to the institutiion of the judiciary, and accordingly to our Constitution. The speedy resolution of the complaint is imperative.”

DA chief whip Ian Davidson said that if the allegations are true, the implications for South Africa’s democracy are “profoundly serious”.

“Not only would they constitute further proof of the politicisation of key state institutions, they would also illustrate that the checks and balances that are the hallmark of a well-functioning democracy have been seriously eroded — especially the principle of separation of powers.

“The use of the intelligence services to spy on judges would also suggest that the abuse of the security forces that characterised the lead-up to the … Polokwane [conference] has left lasting damage on the NIA … ”

He said DA MP Paul Swart will also write to the chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence (JSCI) to request that Judge Hlophe be called to appear before the JSCI and explain his alleged remarks.

“The JSCI must investigate whether any member of the intelligence community has been investigating any member of the South African judiciary and whether such members have been passing information to Hlophe,” Davidson said.

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