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Moseneke slams ’unfair’ 12-year delay in case against John Hlophe

Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe. File picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African New Agency (ANA)

Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe. File picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African New Agency (ANA)

Published Dec 6, 2020

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Retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke has described the 12-year delay in dealing with the complaint against Western Cape High Court Judge President John Hlophe as unacceptable.

In his recently published judicial memoir, All Rise, Moseneke writes that all the complainant judges but Justice Chris Jafta had either died or retired.

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"Whatever the reasons might be for this prolonged delay of deciding the complaint, this is unacceptable," Moseneke writes.

The former Robben Island political prisoner continues: "And yet, in the 12 years since the complaint, no less than 14 cases related to our original complaints were decided".

According to Moseneke, the ferocious court battles were about everything technical, procedural or peripheral, but nothing about their complaint.

"This was by no means a difficult issue to decide. Did one judge of a division or court attempt to persuade improperly two judges of another division or court to throw away a decision in a case in favour of Jacob Zuma?" he asks.

Justice Jafta and his retired colleague Bess Nkabinde were the subjects of highly unusual complaints against Hlophe at the height of Zuma's troubles with the law before he became the country's president.

The Judicial Conduct Tribunal, headed by retired Joop Labuschagne, Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Tati Makgoka and attorney Nishani Pather, will commence with hearings of the complaint lodged by justices of the Constitutional Court against Hlophe dating as far back as 2008.

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"More than 12 years have gone by, and up to now, the Judicial Services Commission has not itself or through a tribunal tested the veracity of these allegations and counter allegations. The commission has not made a decision on the complaint," states Moseneke.

Moseneke, ex-Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo, retired justices Yvonne Mokgoro, Kate O'Regan, Zak Yakoob, Johann van der Westhuizen and the late Thembile Skweyiya are the complainants in the matter.

Hlophe also filed a complaint against the apex court's justices for releasing a statement on their complaint without informing him.

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"While I live, I may still be called to testify. So, I am a potential witness on what Justices Nkabinde and Jafta have told me and (late former Chief Justice Pius) Langa about their conversations with Judge Hlophe," reads the memoir.

Moseneke wrote that it would be unwise to pass his judgment on the facts and circumstances of Hlophe's complaint.

"In other words, the case is yet to be decided – it is sub judice," he claimed.

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Moseneke continued: "Twelve years have passed and no decision has been reached by the JSC. For that reason, allow me to invite you to be the judge of the complaint including what you think about the delay of the JSC in reaching finality in a matter of this magnitude for the judiciary and our country."

Zuma is back at the KwaZulu-Natal High Court on Tuesday to face corruption, fraud, money laundering and tax evasion charges. Hlophe is also due to face the Judicial Conduct Committee from December 14 to hear complaints against him by Western Cape Deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath.

Political Bureau

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