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'Hlophe fee decision indefensible'

Minister Jeff Radebe's decision to pay Hlophe's legal costs was legally and ethically indefensible, FUL says.

Minister of Justice Jeff Radebe. Picture: Sapa.

JOHANNESBURG - NGO Freedom Under Law (FUL) chairperson Judge Johann Kriegler on Wednesday said Justice Minister Jeff Radebe's decision to pay Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe's legal costs was legally and ethically indefensible.

Hlophe has been involved in a four-year long battle, amid claims he tried to improperly influence Constitutional Court cases relating to President Jacob Zuma.

In April, Hlophe lost two legal battles lodged by FUL and Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille.

The Constitutional Court has since refused him leave to appeal the rulings.

Radebe on Tuesday confirmed in a Parliamentary question that the Department of Justice would not try to retrieve the money used by Hlophe.

"I have decided that in light of the importance of the constitutional issues raised in the case, that I will not be seeking recovery of costs incurred in the Hlophe case."

Radebe's statement came as a surprise because he had previously said Hlophe would have to repay the millions in legal fees, should he lose the legal battle.

Kriegler said Radebe's decision flew in the face of good government practice.

"It is unheard of for the State to stand good for the legal costs of somebody, irrespective of the outcome of disciplinary proceedings against that person."

Kriegler said Hlophe could not claim that the charges were related to his official duties.

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) is yet to investigate Hlophe.

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