Quote of the week

The unhappy fact that it is journalists, investigating organs of state and officialdom and the political class and their involvement in corrupt practices to loot the State’s resources, who, by so doing, attract the attention of powerful and influential persons who are capable of suborning the apparatus of the State to smell out their adversaries, cannot be ignored. The examples of abuse of the system have been addressed elsewhere in this judgment. Moreover, the respondents’ perspectives assume that the designated judge is not lied to and is diligent… In my view, in the absence of a rebuttal, this example illustrates a grave vulnerability in RJCA that such an apparent abuse could occur. The common cause examples of blatant lies being told to the designated judge further exacerbates the vulnerability of the system.

Sutherland J
Amabhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism NPC and Another v Minister of Justice and Correctional Services and Others
2 February 2007

R500 000 small change for Hlophe?

In April last year Judge President John Hlophe acknowledged that he had received out-of-pocket expenses from the Oasis group, “which were not excessive and has always been open and transparent”. He also said that he had permission from the Minister of Justice Dullah Omar to do the work.

Now it emerge in court papers that he had received nearly R500 000 from the Oasis group, starting in December 2002. Omar was Minister of Justice until the middle of 1999. Hlophe on several occasions declined to grant permission to Oasis to sue Judge Desai but after payments of almost R500 000, he suddely gave the permission.

Two blidingly obvious conclusions can be drawn form this:

  • Judge Hlophe lied in his innitial statement when he said that Oasis was only paying him for out of pocket expenses – it is surely not possible to incur out of pocket expenses of R500 000 in three years? So the Judge President has been caught in a lie. He might have changed his story before the JSC, but the innitial statement was clearly untrue.
  • It is difficult to see how Dullah Omar could have given permission for this because he was not the Minister anymore in 2002 – unless Hlophe started doing work for Oasis in 1999 or ealier but only started receiving payments when Oasis wanted to sue Judge Siras Desai. So, either he lied about getting permission or he must admit that he only started receiving money from Oasis when they wanted a favour from him.

From this it is difficult not to conclude that Judge Hlophe’s action were both dishonest and corrupt. Maybe he has a good excuse, but judges must not only be beyond reproach but must make sure their behaviour does not even hint at impropriety. It is a scandal that he is still on the bench. He should be impeached.

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