JSC may meet soon over Hlophe

2008-06-02 00:00

The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) will probably hold an emergency session to consider a complaint from the Constitutional Court that Cape Judge President John Hlophe attempted to interfere in cases concerning Jacob Zuma.

The complaint that Hlophe tried to influence Constitutional Court judges in an “improper” manner with regard to their decision on the seizure of documents related to Zuma’s corruption trial was described yesterday as “Judge Hlophe’s judicial death sentence”.

Asked about the issue, Zuma said he did not wish to get involved.

“Under the circumstances, I don’t think it’s my place to comment on it or to say anything whatsoever about the further handling of the matter,” he said.

The next scheduled meeting of the JSC is set to take place in October, but an announcement on an emergency session is expected today, JSC secretary Vuyelwa Masanghwane said yesterday.

“The JSC considers the situation to be very, very serious and will probably hold an emergency session,” he said.

Chief Justice Pius Langa, who is also the chairman of the JSC, said a final decision has not been made yet on an emergency session.

Asked if he, as chair of the JSC, will withdraw from any investigation of Hlophe because the complaint against him was handed in by judges under his control in the Constitutional Court, he said, “You’ll have to speculate over that”.

Since Saturday, Hlophe has not answered his cellphone or responded to messages left asking him to comment.

The weekend press reported that he denied all allegations of “improper interference”.

Shocked reaction was still coming in yesterday.

The president of the Law Society of the Northern Provinces, Jan Janse van Rensburg, said that if the allegations have any merit, “Judge Hlophe may not act as a judge ever again”.

“In light of the very high profile of the people involved and the serious implications of the allegations, the JSC should convene urgently.”

Janse van Rensburg said everyone wants to know exactly what happened and exactly what the allegations against Judge Hlophe are.

“In the interests of justice, this should be made public as soon as possible,” he said.

IFP MP Koos van der Merwe, one of the most senior members of the JSC, said the commission must convene urgently because the whole country is in uproar.

He and the nine other politicians who are members of the JSC will not be allowed to be present if the JSC convenes over Hlophe.

“Something terribly serious must have upset the Constitutional Court judges because by publicising their complaints, they issued Judge Hlophe with a judicial death sentence.”

Chairman of the South African General Council of the Bar, advocate Jannie Eksteen SC, said a hearing by the JSC is urgent. “In the meantime, it seems judicially correct that Judge Hlophe is suspended pending the hearing.”

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