Chief Jus­tice gives Hlophe the fin­ger af­ter race com­ment

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - AN­GELA QUIN­TAL

OUT­GO­ING Chief Jus­tice Pius Langa has pub­licly shown the fin­ger to Cape Judge Pres­i­dent John Hlophe by grant­ing an in­ter­view to a jour­nal­ist whom the lat­ter re­ported to the press om­buds­man and ac­cused of ly­ing.

The in­ter­view with the Mail & Guardian re­porter, pub­lished on­line yes­ter­day, came days af­ter Judge Hlophe wrote to Jus­tice Langa deny­ing he had said he would not shake the chief jus­tice’s hand be­cause it would be “shak­ing the hand of a white man” or that he had ac­cused jus­tices of the Con­sti­tu­tional Court of sell­ing out.

It also came on the eve of a Ju­di­cial Ser­vice Com­mis­sion (JSC) meet­ing to de­cide whether a for­mal in­quiry lead­ing to pos­si­ble im­peach­ment against Judge Hlophe or the Con­court jus­tices is war­ranted, fol­low­ing last year’s com­plaint and counter-com­plaint of ju­di­cial mis­con­duct.

The JSC’s com­plaints com­mit­tee will meet in Joburg to­day to dis­cuss the find­ings of a pre­lim­i­nary in­quiry by a three­man sub-com­mit­tee fol­low­ing months of le­gal bat­tles be­fore the courts and the JSC it­self.

The sub-com­mit­tee in­ter­viewed Judge Hlophe, Jus­tice Langa, his deputy Dik­gang Moseneke, and the two Con­court jus­tices the judge pres­i­dent was ac­cused of try­ing to in­flu­ence – Jus­tice Bess Nk­abinde and Judge Chris Jafta – on July 30 .

On Tues­day, the com­plainant Con­court jus­tices wrote to the JSC re­quest­ing they also be al­lowed to make rep­re­sen­ta­tions to the full com­plaints com­mit­tee.

The JSC gave both sides un­til 4pm yes­ter­day to pro­vide writ­ten heads of ar­gu­ment, that would be con­sid­ered at to­day’s meet­ing.

The com­mit­tee is to de­cide whether Judge Hlophe will face a for­mal in­quiry for al­legedly try­ing last year to in­flu­ence the Con­court jus­tices to rule in favour of Ja­cob Zuma.

Mean­while, Judge Hlophe yes­ter­day lodged a com­plaint with the press om­buds­man against the Mail & Guardian and its re­porter, Sello Al­cock.

He also copied it to the JSC, which re­ceived a com­plaint this week against Judge Hlophe about the judge’s re­ported racist com­ments, from rights group Afrifo­rum.

The com­plaint was backed up by af­fi­davits from those present at a din­ner hosted by Judge Hlophe, at which com­ments by the judge pres­i­dent were re­ported as an exclusive, as well as an SMS from Al­cock to the judge pres­i­dent af­ter pub­li­ca­tion of the in­ter­view.

The re­porter was in­vited to the din­ner by a guest.

Judge Hlophe ac­cused Al­cock of us­ing “dis­hon­est and sur­rep­ti­tious meth­ods to gather and dis­trib­ute un­truth­ful in­for­ma­tion to pub­lish in the Mail & Guardian”.

Mail & Guardian ed­i­tor Nic Dawes last night said: “We will de­fend our­selves vig­or­ously at the om­buds­man and look for­ward to the op­por­tu­nity to thor­oughly test Judge Hlophe’s ver­sion against our own.”

Mean­while, it was con­firmed yes­ter­day Zuma’s chief jus­tice nom­i­nee, Judge Sandile Ngcobo, will be in­ter­viewed by the JSC on Septem­ber 5.

In a let­ter to the JSC, Jus­tice Langa, act­ing on be­half of Zuma, said those wish­ing to nom­i­nate other candidates for the po­si­tion could do so by close of day yes­ter­day.

JSC sec­re­tary Vuyelwa Masang­wana said she had not had an op­por­tu­nity to check her e-mails to see whether nom­i­na­tions had in fact been made just be­fore yes­ter­day’s dead­line, al­though none had been in the days lead­ing up to it.

The fact that Jus­tice Langa had ad­vised that Ngcobo and any other nom­i­nees would be in­ter­viewed for chief jus­tice has raised eye­brows in the JSC given that it is the pres­i­dent’s con­sti­tu­tional pre­rog­a­tive to make the ap­point­ment.

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