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Johannesburg - A technical point, about how a complaint of misconduct against Cape Judge President John Hlophe was lodged, is likely to open proceedings at a tribunal starting in Kempton Park on Monday.
Hlophe's lawyer Barnabus Xulu has said that since the complaint, dating from 2008, was never submitted under oath or in an affidavit, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) did not have the authority to hold the tribunal.
“The tribunal does not have jurisdiction to hear the matter because it lacks the complaint,” Xulu told reporters in Johannesburg this week.
JSC secretary Sello Chiloane confirmed this point was raised at a pre-hearing meeting last weekend and said technical points like these would be argued on the first day of the hearing.
The tribunal would begin at 10am at the Garden Court Hotel at Or Tambo International Airport.
According to the original complaint lodged in 2008, Constitutional Court justices Chris Jafta and Bess Nkabinde alleged Hlophe asked them to rule in favour of President Jacob Zuma in his corruption case involving the multi-billion rand arms deal.
The justices regarded this as an improper attempt to influence the case.
Hlophe, affronted that the judges had sent a copy of the complaint to the media before he had had time to respond to it, laid a counter-complaint. A lengthy stop-start parallel process of JSC hearings and court challenges ensued.
The matter was ultimately heard in the Supreme Court of Appeal with rulings in favour of Western Cape premier Helen Zille and lobby group Freedom Under Law.
Last October Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said he would formally appoint tribunal members.
Television news channel eNCA recently reported that Nkabinde and Jafta said they were under no obligation to attend the judicial tribunal.
The Sunday Times reported that Hlophe had hired Jamaican-born lawyer Courtenay Griffiths as part of his defence team, alongside Xulu, and two advocates.
Griffiths, who was involved in the war crimes trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor, told the newspaper he would love to defend Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe, whom he called “brother Bob”.
The newspaper reported that Hlophe would be the first judicial officer to face a tribunal under the amended law related to judicial services. Hlophe faces impeachment if found guilty.
The hearings are open to the public. - Sapa