Sunday, June 22, 2008

Concourt judges do the right thing

Although selective media leaks and excitable commentators give the opposite impression, our Constitutional Court Judges are handling the Hlophe matter in a dignified manner, upholding the integrity of the judicial system.

South Africans can be thankful that the likes of Chief Justice Pius Langa and his deputy, Dikgang Moseneke, have acted with firmness and clarity in setting out the complaint to the Judicial Services Commission (JSC). On the face of it Cape Judge President Hlophe does have a case to answer: that he tried improperly to influence the outcome of Constitutional Court rulings involving ANC president Jacob Zuma.

There is no merit in Hlophe’s counter-claim that the judges violated “established international jurisprudence” when they issued a statement announcing they were lodging a complaint with the JSC. In fact there is no “established international jurisprudence” for what we are witnessing. We are in uncharted territory. As Chief Justice Langa says: “The circumstances giving rise to the complaint against Hlophe JP were unprecedented and exceptional. There are no preordained procedural requirements in such circumstances”.

Hlophe and his supporters cannot be allowed to detract from the central issue: a senior judge has acted in a manner which threatens the independence of the highest court in the land. Ordinary people need to be reassured that judges can’t go around seeking favours for the politically powerful.

Hlophe’s alleged boast of his connections with the National Intelligence Agency is also disturbing.

Armed with carefully considered submissions from the top judges, the JSC now has a duty to entrench transparent democracy where all are equal before the law.

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