Bid to influence Zuma cases 'unprecedented'

Joel Avni

Joel Avni

The constitutional court judges also rejected Judge John Hlophe's complaint to the JSC that they had breached his constitutional rights by going public with their allegations against him.

They say that they issued the press statement because the Cape judge president's alleged bid to influence two judges to rule in Zuma's favour had threatened "the integrity of the adjudication process and the very independence of the constitutional court".

"The other judges were shocked and distressed by the reports. None of the judges had experienced such a serious affront to the integrity of the judicial process in their careers as judges.

"In the absence of any possible reason to suggest that our colleagues would manufacture reports of such a serious nature, we accepted the accuracy and veracity of what they had been told and continue to do so," says their statement to the JSC.

"With a view to the constitutional values of openness and accountability, it was considered that the independence of the constitutional court and its deliberative processes would be best protected by a public disclosure of what occurred.

"In circumstances where the independence of the constitutional court had been threatened and the integrity of the administration of justice in South Africa generally, it was considered imperative and appropriate that this be publicly disclosed."

The constitutional court judges say Hlophe does not seem to understand the gravity of the complaint by complaining about the press release.

"An attempt to influence judges of the highest court to determine a case in a particular manner is a threat to the institution of the judiciary, one of the pillars of our democracy."

They also belittle the Cape judge president's contention that issuing a media statement conflicted with "established international jurisprudence".

"The circumstances giving rise to the complaint against Hlophe were unprecedented and exceptional. There are no preordained procedural requirements in such circumstances."