Judicial crisis

2008-06-03 00:00

In an unprecedented move the Constitutional Court, which epitomises and safeguards the rule of law in this country, has issued a statement to the effect that Cape Judge President John Hlophe has attempted to interfere in a case involving Jacob Zuma which is currently on appeal before the court.

The complaint is an allegation at this stage but the Constitutional Court judges would surely not have issued their statement if they were not on strong ground.

The matter must now come before the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) and it is crucially important that it be resolved because Hlophe’s intervention, if it took place, would be grossly disrespectful of the highest court in the land and heavily laced with political implications.

It is clear from the Constitutional Court’s statement that none of its judges invited Hlophe’s intervention. It seems, therefore, that Hlophe may have been wanting to do his bit for the Zuma cause. If so, was this because of his own personal ambitions or because of pressure from Zuma’s supporters.

Questions also arise about the Constitutional Court judges themselves. Two of them have been cited as the ones who Hlophe approached and tried to influence. Was it thought that they might be sympathetic? To their great credit they have blown the whistle instead.

The apartheid era left as part of its legacy the fact that certain judges did not stand aloof from the political dynamics of the period. It would be tragic if the same disposition were to influence some of the judges in the present dispensation.

These are the factors which show how important it is for this matter to be resolved urgently. If Hlophe is found to be at fault he must be removed forthwith from the hallowed halls of the judiciary.

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