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Judicial tribunal facing a hard task

Back in spotlight Cape Judge President John Hlope at the Parktonian Hotel in Johannesburg today for the start of JSC inquiry. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

Back in spotlight Cape Judge President John Hlope at the Parktonian Hotel in Johannesburg today for the start of JSC inquiry. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

Published Dec 8, 2020

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Durban - The Judicial Conduct Tribunal has a tough task to prove that Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe had made an attempt to influence two Constitutional Court judges to rule in favour of former president Jacob Zuma when he faced prosecution for alleged corruption in the arms deal.

The hearing, which started on Monday is set for five days.

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At the centre of the allegations is the phrase “sesithembele kinina”, which the Concourt judges allege to have meant that they should rule in favour of Zuma.

Expert witness Professor Langalibalele Mathenjwa was commissioned by Hlophe’s attorneys B Xulu & Partners to give expert evidence on the matter.

In his written submission, Mathenjwa said he was mandated to give a specific opinion on the particular meaningand understanding of the isiZulu phrase “sesithembele kinina” in the context of an informal discussion that took place between Judge President Hlophe and Justice Chris Jafta.

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Mathenjwa said: “I should state at the outset that any translation from one language to another could be easily misconstrued if the person(s) doing thetranslation or using it is not the first language speaker of the language used in the original discussion or document.

“Within the context, the phrase ‘sesithembele kinina’ could be either misconstrued or easily manipulated in order to achieve specific ends.

“If you think of language as a building, it’s easy to see why grammar is important. If words are bricks, then grammar cements them together. Neither can function without the other.

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This is why grammar is so important in the understanding of languages.”

He said one cannot come up with the translation of words without understanding their grammatical usage.

The complaint laid by the judges of the Constitutional Court that Hlophe was trying to influence Jafta when he used the phrase “sesithembele kinina”, meaning that “you are our last hope” to rule in favour of Mr Zuma, seems to have no basis at all when considering the conversation that took place between Hlophe and Jafta, he said.

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Mathenjwa concluded that the issue of trying to influence Jafta by using the isiZulu phrase was far-fetched.

“As an expert, I would say it was not Justice Jafta who wanted to lay a complaint about Judge President Hlophe but somebody else was raising it for him, using the conversation that was well understood by the two people who were involved in.

“I think the person(s) who was/were persuading Justice Jafta to lay a complaint are the ones that come with the different understanding of the isiZulu phrase in question.

“When using the phrase, Judge Hlophe was telling Jafta that they were the last hope to uphold justice, and trusted that they were going to behave as a Constitutional Court, as the last court in the land to clear up the uncertainty on the matter.”

Mathenjwa said: “It was necessary to test the understanding of meaning based on the two individuals that were involved in the conversation.

“As an expert in this matter I’m convinced that I have delivered on my mandate to prove that ’sesithembele kinina’ was only purported for the trust, confidence, faith, reliance and hope that

Judge President Hlophe had and not the other way.“

Hlophe is alleged to have approached justices Chris Jafta and Bess Nkabinde in March and April 2008.

The tribunal is made up of high court retired judge Joop Labuschagne, designated in terms of section 22(1)(a) of the Judicial Service Commission Act, 1994 as the tribunal president, Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Tati Makgoka as well as

Nishani Pather, a practising attorney. Hlophe’s attorney, Barnabas Xulu, said the sequence of events was important in the case.

The Daily News

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