Hlophe hearing underway

John Hlophe is accused of trying to influence judges in President Jacob Zuma’s corruption case.

Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe. Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The Judicial Service Commission (JSC)'s hearing into Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe's conduct kicked off on Monday.

It began with a debate about whether the tribunal has enough merit to proceed.

In 2008, Hlophe was accused of gross misconduct by Constitutional Court justices after it was alleged that he tried to interfere with deliberations in a corruption matter relating to President Jacob Zuma.

Hlophe has repeatedly denied claims that he approached Justices Bess Nkabinde and Chris Jafta while the court was examining which evidence could be used against Zuma.

The entire Constitutional Court bench said it would lodge a formal complaint because he had told Jafta he was Zuma's only hope to avoid corruption charges.

The tribunal, chaired by retired judge Joop Labuschagne, is hearing technical arguments about whether the hearing can actually go ahead.

This after Jafta and Nkabinde failed to formally submit written complaints against Hlophe.

Also in question was if the hearing should be heard under the JSC Act, which was in force at the time Hlophe spoke to the judges, or if a new procedure would be used.

Hlophe listened intently as his lawyers fought for the hearing to fall away.

Lawyers claim new rules that govern how JSC tribunals operate haven't been followed properly.

They also say these rules were never published in the government gazette.

The hearing is the first ever judicial conduct inquiry in South Africa.

Hlophe is being represented by British lawyer, Courtney Griffiths QC, whose clients include former Liberian President Charles Taylor.