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Cape Town -
Justice Minister Jeff Radebe's decision to not seek repayment of Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe's legal fees is indefensible, Freedom Under Law (FUL) said on Wednesday.
It was surprising that the South African taxpayer had to pay the legal costs of Hlophe in the proceedings arising from the complaint against him by Constitutional Court judges, said FUL chairman Johan Kriegler.
Kriegler accused Radebe of contradicting his earlier undertaking that Hlophe would be asked to repay the millions of rand in legal costs if he lost his court cases.
“There has never been a suggestion that the judge president of the Cape court was acting in the course of his duties when on his own admission he raised with two justices in their offices in Braamfontein the politically sensitive Zuma/Thint cases they were considering at the time,” Kriegler said.
FUL considered Radebe's decision unsound.
“It should be noted that the judge president’s costs over more than four years were incurred while he, retaining his office and its benefits, vigorously and thus far successfully fought to put off the final determination of the truth of his conversation with the two justices.
“In the circumstances, it is unconscionable that such costs are to be borne by the citizenry.”
Earlier this year, the Constitutional Court refused Hlophe's application for leave to appeal two judgments against him. The application arose from two Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) cases brought by Western Cape premier Helen Zille and Freedom under Law.
In a written Parliamentary reply this week Radebe said: “I have decided, in light of the importance of the constitutional issues raised in the case involving Judge Hlophe and the judges of the Constitutional Court, that I will not be seeking recovery of costs incurred in the case involving Judge Hlophe and the judges of the Constitutional Court.”
The decision came under fire from the Democratic Alliance on Tuesday.
DA MP Debbie Schafer accused Radebe of misleading the public and of rewarding Hlophe for protecting President Jacob Zuma. - Sapa