Let justice be the judge

It might be tempting to regard the matter between Cape high court Judge President John Hlophe and the Judicial Service Commission as yet another ego trip by some of the country's top lawyers.

It might be tempting to regard the matter between Cape high court Judge President John Hlophe and the Judicial Service Commission as yet another ego trip by some of the country's top lawyers.

The hearings, expected to resume tomorrow in Sandton, are probably the most important judicial and jurisprudential tribunal South Africa has had. It is unprecedented to have justices of the country's highest court pitted against a head of a provincial division.

The JSC is tasked with establishing the truth of the claims that Hlophe tried to improperly influence two Constitutional Court judges to rule in favour of ANC president Jacob Zuma in his application before that court and Hlophe's own complaint that the judges infringed on his rights by going public with the allegation before hearing his side of the story.

These grounds alone make it more than an ordinary case of judicial ill-discipline. The issues speak to the use or abuse of political and judicial authority.

Instead of treating it as an embarrassment, the country's top legal minds must use the opportunity to show all and sundry how the judicial system works. Even though one of the two sets of applicants will leave the arena unhappy with the decision taken, South Africans will be all the wiser about what is expected of judges. That is a good thing.

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