'Calls for Hlophe to resign are premature'

Sowetan Reporter

Sowetan Reporter

The Black Lawyers Association (BLA) says it is premature to call on Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe to step down from his position.

It is alleged that Hlophe approached some of the judges of the Constitutional Court in an improper attempt to influence the court's pending judgment in four cases involving ANC president Jacob Zuma and arms company Thint that the Concourt heard in March and has reserved judgement on.

The Concourt then submitted a complaint to the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) against Hlophe.

BLA president Andiswa Ndoni said: "Our position on the issue is that we do not know the facts, and in any event we are aware that judges do discuss cases with other judges, even with other judges in other divisions. And, because there is no evidence as to what exactly happened, the profession must wait to hear what the (JSC) will decide."

She said the BLA would only urge that the JSC deals with the issue promptly.

"The BLA will not join the chorus of those who say the judge president must step down pending the outcome of the JSC inquiry."

She said calling for Hlophe to step down was "tantamount to saying he is guilty".

She said the BLA believed that any South African, including Hlophe, was entitled to a fair process and to be presumed innocent until he has been proven guilty.

Ndoni said if Hlophe, of his own free will decided to take leave, that should be his choice and it should not be the expectation of anyone that he would not return from leave until the JSC inquiry was concluded.

Commission spokesman Marumo Moerane said yesterday that there was still no definite word on when or where the commission would meet to discuss the complaint.