Judge 'patronises black people'

2009-09-07 09:26

Johannesburg – Retired Constitutional Court judge Johann Kriegler has been criticised for showing a "clearly patronising attitude toward black people", following his campaign against the JSC's decision to drop its hearings into misconduct claims against Cape Judge President John Hlophe.

Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza SC, criticised Kriegler after he, Advocate Kgomotso Moroka SC and businessman, Cyril Ramaphosa, suddenly broke ties with the organisation Freedom Under Law (FUL), of which Kriegler was the chair, at the weekend.
Their resignations followed on Kriegler's announcement that FUL would oppose the decision by the Judicial Service Commission, to throw out the matter regarding Hlophe.

According to Kriegler, the JSC's failure to "carry out its constitutional duty", was the "greatest threat to the legal order" since the end of apartheid.


Ntsebeza and Moroka were both members of FUL's board and Ramaphosa was part of the advisory panel.

On Sunday Ntsebeza, who was also a member of the JSC, expressed his concern about Kriegler's "public campaign against the JSC".

However, he did say that he had "no problem in principle" with FUL's plans to apply for the revision of the JSC's decision.

"What does bother me, however, are the statements and words which are attributed to Judge Kriegler in the media. It's impossible to live with a very clear patronising attitude toward black people, which has become a recurring theme in his (Kriegler's) statements."

Ntsebeza was referring to a speech made on August 18 at the University of the Witwatersrand, where Kriegler warned that the independence of the bench should not be sacrificed "on the altar of transformation".

Kriegler also said the JSC had broken from its constitutional mandate by making transformation, instead of qualifications, the fundamental requirement for appointment to the bench.

Ntsebeza told Beeld that he found Kriegler's words "offensive". "The essence of what he is saying, is that all black judges were only appointed because they were black, not based on merit."

But despite this fact, he still respected Kriegler. "He's an elderly man, so I have to respect him".

Kriegler regrets resignation

In a joint news statement, Moroka and Ramaphosa said: "We are deeply concerned that ... we were not informed or consulted regarding FUL's decision to begin this legal process."

In a personal letter to Moroka, Kriegler wrote that he received his letter of resignation "with great regret... especially since my actions were instrumental in your decision".

It was "even more tragic" since Moroka had acted "admirably" during a JSC hearing into Hlophe.

"Should you in any stage in the future want to renew your association with FUL, you would be welcomed back unconditionally," wrote Kriegler.

Moroka said she had not yet received Kriegler's letter, but would like to respond to it personally, "since I have a long history with the judge and deep respect for him".

Conflicts of interests

Three board members - Moroka, Ntsebeza and advocate Jeremy Gauntlett SC - were forced to withdraw from the FUL decision due to "potential conflicts of interests".

Moroka was a member of the JSC for 15 years, Ntsebeza is currently a member and had earlier acted on behalf of Hlophe, and Gauntlett is a candidate for a post on the bench of the Constitutional Court.
The decision was made unanimously by six of the FUL's 10 directors. FUL spokesperson, Niall Gahan, said any "personal problems" between Ntsebeza and Kriegler "were not relevant to the legal action against the JSC decision".

"It will continue."