Hlophe's son to be tried on 16 counts
Johannesburg - The son of Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe will be tried on 16 counts, including three of fraud, after his guilty plea was changed to one of not guilty by the Bellville Regional Court in Cape Town on Monday.
Magistrate Susan Smith said she doubted that Thuthuke Exton Hlophe had understood the charges at the time of pleading guilty to eight of them last year.
She also voiced doubt about whether it was in the interests of justice for her to instead record a plea of not guilty to all charges.
Hlophe initially faced 16 counts. However former Commercial Court prosecutor Sylvan Africa withdrew eight of them after accepting his plea of guilty to the remaining eight.
He initially appeared in the Bellville Specialised Commercial Crime Court, but his case was transferred to the Bellville Regional Court.
On September 27 last year, Magistrate Johann Vermaak convicted him on the eight counts after he pleaded guilty.
Vermaak has since retired and the case is now before Smith.
Hlophe has since engaged a new defence team, advocate Thembalihle Sidaki and attorney Njabula Masuku, who said on Monday that his plea of guilty to the eight counts had resulted from his misunderstanding of the charges.
At Sidaki's request, the case was sent to the Western Cape High Court earlier this year for the convictions to be set aside in review proceedings.
However, a clerk omitted to include the defence team's written representations, on which the review proceedings were based.
The case was sent back to the regional court without the review taking place.
At Monday's proceedings, Smith said that only the High Court had the power to review Hlophe's convictions.
After recording a plea of not guilty, Smith re-scheduled the case for trial on March 12 next year, on all 16 counts.
According to the charge sheet, Hlophe was the sole member of a close corporation, trading as Moving Addresses.
One fraud charge relates to a BMW sedan that he bought with a worthless cheque, another to repairs to the vehicle for which he was unable to pay.
On the third, he allegedly bought boards with a dud cheque, and on another fraud count he is alleged to have attempted to cash a dud cheque.