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Johannesburg - Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe may join the review application brought by Constitutional Court judges Chris Jafta and Bess Nkabinde against a tribunal’s ruling that his misconduct case proceed, his lawyer said.
Courtenay Griffiths QC said that was one of the legal options Judge Hlophe was exploring because he shared the concerns raised by the judges.
He said Judge Hlophe was also “anxious” to ensure the Judicial Misconduct Tribunal acted legally and within its statutory powers.
Speaking to journalists after the case was postponed indefinitely to allow the two justices to seek a High Court review of tribunal president Judge Joop Labuschagne’s ruling that the case against Judge Hlophe was valid, Griffiths said: “We will wait to see what position is adopted by the judges because it may well be that they decide to join us as respondents in those proceedings, and if so, of course, we will need to be present to protect the interests of the judge president.”
This came after a day of heated arguments, accusations and counter-accusations at the hearings in Kempton Park on Tuesday.
A lawyer who is involved in the proceedings, but spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Star no one wanted to be the first to retreat because the stakes were high.
Lawyers representing rival parties accused one another of using delaying tactics to stall the proceedings.
It all started when evidence leader Xolisile Khanyile successfully requested a postponement, saying justices Jafta and Nkabinde had the right to exhaust whatever legal avenues they deemed fit.
“As evidence leader, I also want to get on, but the challenge that I am having is that justices Nkabinde and Jafta are the only two witnesses who can give this tribunal material and relevant information, and I must say this is not an easy case at all,” Khanyile said, much to Griffiths’s dismay.
Khanyile said Judge Hlophe should be the last person to accuse others of delaying tactics because he had repeatedly delayed the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) proceedings against him over the past five years.
Griffiths hit back, saying it was “disingenuous” of Khanyile to blame Judge Hlophe for the delays because they had been caused by lobby group Freedom Under Law’s appeal, supported by Western Cape Premier Helen Zille, against the JSC’s earlier ruling in favour of Judge Hlophe.
Advocate Selby Mbenenge SC, for justices Jafta and Nkabinde, denied his clients were responsible for the delays or were trying to avoid the tribunal. “On previous occasions the justices did participate in proceedings of the JSC. There is no reason to believe they are bent on avoiding due processes.”