Hlophe has no place on Bench, say legal gurus

By Karen Breytenbach

More voices on Monday joined the call for Cape Judge President John Hlophe's dismissal.

Eight highly respected senior members of the Cape Bar Council wrote to the Cape Times newspaper in support of former constitutional and appeals court judge Johann Kriegler's comment at the weekend that Hlophe was "unfit for the Bench".

Among them are former acting judges, and chairmen of the Cape Bar Council and the General Council of the Bar of South Africa.

Their denunciation came as all silks were invited to a meeting on Tuesday to discuss the decision by the majority of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) last week not to institute a formal inquiry into Hlophe's alleged misconduct.

Hlophe was investigated for receiving payments for moonlighting from Oasis Asset Management totalling R500 000 over three years and then granting the company the right to sue fellow judge Siraj Desai for defamation without disclosing the benefit. Hlophe claimed he had the verbal permission of late Justice Minister Dullah Omar to do work for Oasis.

The signatories of the letter to the Cape Times are:

  • Schalk Burger (former acting judge, a top commercial lawyer and former chairman of Johannesburg Bar Council)

  • Michael Fitzgerald (former acting judge)

  • Jeremy Gauntlett (former chairman of general and Cape bar councils and an advocate for government and senior ANC members)

  • Peter Hodes (former leading figure in the Cape Bar Council)

  • Rob Petersen (human rights lawyer and apartheid exile)

  • Les Rose-Innes (former chairman of the Cape Bar Council)

  • Nic Treurnicht (former chairman of the Cape Bar Council)

  • Henri Viljoen (former acting judge and anti-apartheid lawyer in the famous "Wit Doeke" case)

  • Renata Williams (former acting judge)

    In their letter they stated: "We believe there cannot be public confidence in the continuation in office now of Judge Hlophe. Even the conduct he has admitted, and the JSC's characterisation of it, obliges this conclusion."

    The JSC unanimously found both Hlophe's explanations to the JSC "unsatisfactory in certain respects" and his failure to disclose the payments while being involved in the Desai matter to be "inappropriate". However, the commission was divided on whether there was sufficient evidence available to justify formal proceedings against Hlophe.

    Hlophe did not respond to requests for comment.

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