Hlophe interfered, says judge

Johannesburg - Cape Judge President John Hlophe told an acting judge of the Constitutional Court that ANC leader Jacob Zuma was being persecuted while a judgment on the matter was still pending, it emerged on Wednesday.

This was said to acting Judge Chris Jafta while he was in process of finalising a judgment relating to fraud and corruption charges against Zuma, which he was still facing at that stage.

"I am sure that he [Hlophe] said Mr Zuma was persecuted as he [Hlophe] had been and that the SCA [Supreme Court of Appeal] had got it wrong," Jafta told the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), referring to an SCA ruling against Zuma.

Hlophe told Jafta, who is an old friend, "we pin our hopes on you", in isiZulu.

"I thought he was wishing for a decision which would favour Mr Zuma because the SCA had found against Mr Zuma," said Jafta.

Jafta testified that he felt uncomfortable entertaining the conversation with Hlophe and that he had been taken by surprise by Hlophe's comments.

JSC dealing with two complaints

He said he did not do anything immediately after the conversation as he was unsure how to handle the situation.

It was only after he heard that another judge of the Constitutional Court, Bess Nkabinde, had also been approached by Hlophe, that he realised that this could amount to an attempt at interfering in the judgment.

Yet, he remained reluctant to lay an official complaint against Hlophe.

"I said I believed that I had effectively dealt with the matter when I told the Judge President the matter was going to be decided on the facts of the case."

But Chief Justice Pius Langa and then acting Deputy Chief Justice Kate O'Regan insisted that a complaint be laid.

The JSC is dealing with two complaints - the first is whether Hlophe tried to influence Nkabinde and Jafta who were working on a Constitutional Court judgment involving Zuma.

The second complaint is from Hlophe, who says the judges of the Constitutional Court had infringed on his rights by making public the allegation against him without giving him an opportunity to state his side of the story.

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