Chief Justice gives Hlophe the finger after race comment
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.