Hlophe’s bid to gag judges fails

2013-10-08 13:31

Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe has failed in a bid to gag justices of the Constitutional Court and other senior judges from speaking to the media.

The judicial conduct tribunal into Hlophe was today indefinitely postponed to allow justices Chris Jafta and Bess Nkabinde the opportunity to go to court over the case.

The tribunal had to be postponed in order to write up reasons for its decision to dismiss preliminary objections to its continued existence by Nkabinde and Jafta.

The two justices, at the centre of an alleged attempt to sway Constitutional Court judges in favour of President Jacob Zuma, will likely attempt to have a court review and set aside these findings.

But Courtenay Griffiths, who is representing Hlophe at the hearings, has also called for the tribunal to issue an order against senior judges, “restraining” them from speaking to the media.

Griffiths referred to reports that appeared in City Press and in the Sunday Times.

Both reports quoted unnamed, senior judicial sources who have been critical of Nkabinde and Jafta’s stance of challenging the tribunal on technical grounds.

“It’s deplorable that senior justices, possibly complainants in this matter, have been so flippant in descending so brazenly into a highly charged political arena.”

He said it was “highly irresponsible” that Constitutional Court justices should express themselves on a matter “they may in due course have to pronounce on in their official capacity as judges”.

Griffiths said: “There should be an order to all justices of the Constitutional Court and indeed any superior court that they should refrain from offering an opinion to media during ... these proceedings.”

But retired Judge Joop Labuschagne dismissed the application for an order, saying the tribunal did not have “enough and appropriate facts before us to make any order in that regard”.

During argument, Selby Mbenenge, who represents Nkabinde and Jafta, stressed that his clients were willing to testify, but not in front of a tribunal they felt was illegitimate.

The matter has been indefinitely postponed.

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