Hearings on Hlophe's conduct delayed

hlophe_15/04 Sunday Independent Wait! The Judicial Service Commission says it will not deal with the complaints against Judge John Hlophe in a "piecemeal fashion". Photo: Alan Taylor, Sunday Argus

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) said this week it would not deal with the complaints against John Hlophe, the judge president of the Cape, in a "piecemeal fashion" and would wait for the outcome of a defamation case involving another judge before proceeding.

This is the latest episode in a legal soap opera that has rolled on for months, seriously damaging the reputation of the judiciary.

It has been complicated by accusations of racism and the lack of a law regulating judges' remunerative activities.

The commission will wait for the finalisation of the defamation suit against Hlophe's colleague, Siraj Desai, a Cape High Court judge, and only then deal with a range of complaints against the third-most senior of the judge presidents.

If the defamation trial goes ahead, it could lead to appeals to the appellate division and to the constitutional court, so the complaints against Hlophe might not come before the JSC for a considerable time.

The complaints against Hlophe include those by Peter Hazel, an advocate. Hazel has charged Hlophe with three counts of contempt of court, two of conduct unbecoming of a judge, seven of bringing the administration of justice into disrepute and three of gross incompetence involving events that have been played out publicly in the past three years.

Desai is being sued by the Oasis group of companies which, according to court documents, paid Hlophe more than R500 000 in consultancy, and other fees, between 2002 and 2006.

Some of the payments were made during the period when Hlophe gave Oasis permission to sue Desai.

Oasis plans to call the judge president as its first witness when the defamation case resumes in the Cape High Court on June 11.

Oasis alleges that Desai accused it of dishonest business practices and made statements that harmed its reputation.

Hlophe is expected to testify that Desai gave him a verbal undertaking that he would not contest the validity of his consent to sue - a claim Desai denies. - Political Staff

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