Western Cape Judge President, John Hlophe, has again disputed claims that meetings he had with Constitutional Court judges had been to influence them to rule in former President Jacob Zuma’s favour in a matter before them in 2008.
Hlophe has been testifying at the Judicial Conduct Tribunal underway in Kempton Park, east of Johannesburg, that’s hearing charges of gross misconduct levelled against him.
He is accused of trying to influence Justices Bess Nkabinde and Chris Jafta when he met them individually on different dates 12 years ago.
Jafta says he did not lodge a complaint against Hlophe, following their 2008 meeting because he did not believe there was a basis for a complaint, but the complaint had eventually been filed by the full bench of the Constitutional Court.
He says he considered the conversation with Hlophe to be innocent and that they are friends who met and talked about a variety of issues.
Jafta says they did not discuss the merits of the Zuma matter and that he understood Hlophe’s position to be that of emphasising his faith in the apex court.
He says he does not consider himself a complainant in the matter, but his former colleague.
Overstepping the mark
Nkabinde, has a different view, she says she immediately snapped when, during their meeting, Hlophe started talking about Zuma’s case that was before the apex court.
She says she initially felt that Hlophe was overstepping the mark.
“My evidence is that Judge President was trying to influence the decision, taking into account all these factors, that he was remarking about, put together, cumulatively, I then thought that he may be trying to influence the decision of the court. He did not influence me as I said, I snapped and immediately rebuffed. And on this issue of privilege, we ended the matter there when he said no my sister, I did not intend to interfere with your work.”
Evidence leader, Advocate Ivy Thenga, is not also convinced that Hlophe’s meetings with Justices Nkabinde and Jafta had been innocent.
Thenga put it to Hlophe that he had a burning desire to influence the judges before they delivered their verdict in the Zuma matter.
“The answer is a definite no, there were so many other judges of the Constitutional Court that I met in that period of time. I have mentioned Justice (Pius) Langa, I mentioned Justices Dikgang Moseneke on the phone, (Thembile) Skweyiya, I mentioned (Sandile) Ngcobo, (Tholie) Madala (I just want to put it to you Judge President that the burning issue at that time was to discuss which you went to discuss with the two justices.) No I dispute that, had that been the case, I would have discussed that with other judges as well.”