Quote of the week

An ‘important purpose of section 34 [of the Constitution] is to guarantee the protection of the judicial process to persons who have disputes that can be resolved by law’ and that the right of access to court is ‘foundational to the stability of an orderly society. It ensures the peaceful, regulated and institutionalised mechanisms to resolve disputes, without resorting to self-help. The right of access to court is a bulwark against vigilantism, and the chaos and anarchy which it causes. Construed in this context of the rule of law and the principle against self-help in particular, access to court is indeed of cardinal importance’.The right guaranteed s34 would be rendered meaningless if court orders could be ignored with impunity:the underlying purposes of the right — and particularly that of avoidance of self-help — would be undermined if litigants could decide which orders they wished to obey and which they wished to ignore.

Plasket AJ
Victoria Park Ratepayers' Association v Greyvenouw CC and others (511/03) [2003] ZAECHC 19 (11 April 2003)
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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