No decision over Hlophe yet

2010-03-11 21:09

Cape Town - Judgment was reserved on Thursday on Western Cape Premier Helen Zille's high court challenge over Cape judge president John Hlophe.

Zille is seeking on procedural grounds to overturn last year's Judicial Service Commission (JSC) finding that Hlophe was not guilty of gross misconduct.

She also wants an order that would in essence allow her as premier to take part in a re-hearing of the complaint against Hlophe.

But on Thursday Hlophe's counsel, John Newdigate, argued in the Western Cape High Court that given her views on Hlophe, her application was "an exercise in futility".

He said Zille was on record as saying the JSC decision was an indication of the lengths to which the African National Congress would go to "repay political favours".

She had also said Hlophe's character and reputation remained "fundamentally tainted".

No question over partiality

Newdigate said that by making those statements, Zille had disqualified herself from acting as a member of the JSC in dealing with complaints against Hlophe.

It could not be suggested she could keep an open mind, or reasonably be perceived to be doing so, and if she did find herself on the JSC, she would face a recusal application.

"There cannot be debate on the question of partiality," he said.

A ruling by the court would have no practical consequence, even if it went against Hlophe.

The application was heard by judges imported specially for the matter, Jos Jones from the Eastern Cape and Chamin Ebrahim from the Free State.

Last year's JSC ruling followed a Constitutional Court complaint that Hlophe tried to improperly influence a decision it was to make on a case involving President Jacob Zuma.