Concern over judiciary

2009-09-06 15:47

Johannesburg - The unfolding events within the country's judicial system with regard to action taken against Judge John Hlophe should be a cause for grave concern for all South Africans, said the National Interfaith Leadership Council (NILC) on Sunday.

Its national convenor Reverend Ray McCauley said this was particularly in relation to the brewing legal battle mounted by the Freedom Under Law organisation, which is headed by retired Constitutional Court Judge Johann Kriegler.

Kriegler launched a legal challenge last week against the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) after it dismissed the misconduct complaint against Hlophe, the Western Cape Judge President.

"For some time now, South Africans have had to endure a series of tensions and legal rows of one form or another within the judicial fraternity, which have without doubt left this honourable sector bruised," McCauley said.

"In most instances, these clashes have been more about personalities and ideological difference than about defending the sacrosanct rule of law," he said.

'Sad chapter'

It was for this reason that the NILC had sighed with relief at the recent ruling by the JSC.

"For us the ruling signified closure on this sad chapter and paved way for the judiciary to heal and move forward."

"While we respect the constitutional rights of individuals to challenge legal judgements, we are however of a view that the ensuing challenge and the open attack on the integrity of the JSC by luminaries such as Judge Kriegler and Emeritus Archbishop Tutu can only serve to further erode the integrity of the judiciary and undermine the confidence of the people in it," McCauley said.

On Saturday, businessman Cyril Ramaphosa and South Gauteng High Court acting Judge Kgomotso Moroka resigned from FUL, saying they were not consulted before FUL took action against the JSC's decision on Hlophe.

Joining Ramaphosa and Moraka in their exit from the body was JSC member advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza, who resigned on Sunday, the SABC reported.

Respect for rule of law

Ntsebeza told the broadcaster that his resignation was prompted by his respect of the rule of law, but added that he was not at all against any organisation challenging the JSC's decisions.

McCauley said: "The exclusion of several members of the Freedom Under Law in deciding to challenge the JSC, which led to some of them resigning, raises serious questions regarding the real intention of those behind the action.

"It is difficult not to suspect that the action might be more about personalities and politics than the protection of the constitution and the rule of law," he said.

Adding that NILC did not believe that the interest of the South African nation and the integrity of the judicial system would be better served by FUL's legal action.