Kriegler calls for Hlophe to be suspended after 'clearly wrong' acquittal of Bongo

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ANC MP Bongani Bongo outside the  Western Cape High Court.
ANC MP Bongani Bongo outside the Western Cape High Court.
PHOTO: Brenton Geach/Gallo Images

Former Constitutional Court justice Johann Kriegler and Freedom Under Law (FUL) are calling for Western Cape High Court Judge John Hlophe to be suspended over his conduct in the case against ANC MP Bongani Bongo.

Hlophe dismissed the corruption case against Bongo last week, after the State had concluded its case.

Kriegler said FUL has "maintained that Judge Hlophe is unfit to be a judge".

"His contrived reasoning and perverse ruling last week demonstrate how dangerous it has been to allow him to remain on the Bench. An exemplary case of corruption has been frustrated, the corrupt deed has gone unpunished and decent public servants have been defamed," he said in a statement on Monday.

"Freedom Under Law is not concerned with the political consequences of Judge John Hlophe’s dismissal of the corruption case against former minister Bongani Bongo. Our concern is its implications for the administration of justice. This particular decision is clearly wrong and shows what harm just one dishonest judge can do."

Kriegler added: "We now publicly and urgently repeat our submission to the Judicial Service Commission that Judge Hlophe be suspended pending the conclusion of the proceedings for his removal from office. His conduct in the case against Mr Bongo constitutes yet another act of gross misconduct unfitting him for judicial office."

On Friday, Hlophe granted Bongo's Section 174 application to have the case dismissed based on evidence presented and acquitted him of the charges.

Hlophe ruled that the State had failed to produce enough evidence to require a defence from Bongo.

The case centred around testimony from Advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara, who said Bongo had approached him while he was working as the evidence leader in Parliament’s Eskom inquiry. Vanara alleged that Bongo asked him to "fake an illness" to prevent that investigation going ahead.

Hlophe said that Vanara's evidence was not credible in some respects, and was not corroborated by other State witnesses, according to IOL.

The judge found that Vanara’s evidence against Bongo did not implicate him in the crime of corruption, because Vanara did not reveal what exactly he was offered to delay or collapse the Eskom inquiry, or provide any detail on how the bribe would be paid.

Hlophe also spoke out against Vanara for not immediately reporting the alleged bribery to the Hawks or police, as required by the Act.

Bongo was recently named in testimony to the Zondo commission by witnesses from the State Security Agency, according to Mail and Guardian. He was appointed as state security minister in the Zuma administration around the time he allegedly tried to bribe Vanara.

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