Bernadette Wicks
Senior court reporter
2 minute read
7 Dec 2020
1:31 pm

Hlophe’s ‘you are our last hope’ should not be taken out of context, witness tells tribunal

Bernadette Wicks

The witness says there is no evidence that indicates the fact that the phrase Judge John Hlophe said was ever intended to influence Justice Chris Jafta.

Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe is pictured at Premier Hotel, OR Tambo International Airport, 7 December 2020, at the gross misconduct tribunal where he's accused of trying to influence 2 ConCourt justices in Zuma's favour in 2008. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

A language expert has testified that Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe’s appeal to a Constitutional Court Justice in IsiZulu should be considered carefully within context, rather than seeing it as an attempt to influence the fellow judge.

The expert, specialising in IsiZulu, was called as a witness for Hlophe at his judicial conduct tribunal, and has testified that his statement in the language which loosely translated means “you are our last hope” should not be interpreted out of context.

The tribunal is probing allegations that Hlophe tried using his sway to curry judicial favour for former president Jacob Zuma in 2008.

IsiZulu expert Langalibalele Mathenjwa gave testimony on Monday on the statement Hlophe allegedly said to then acting Justice Chris Jafta, which was interpreted as Hlophe seeking to influence Jafta to be favourable towards the former president in his corruption cases.

Hlophe allegedly told Jafta ‘sesithembele kinina’.

“It was not meant to influence anyone but only advancing the confidence, traits, faith, reliance, and hope that JP Hlophe had in the person he was talking to.

“I had to look at their previous history and I had to look at the relationship that existed between them … If you take the phrase out of context you might end up being misled.

“There is absolutely no evidence that indicates the fact that the phrase was ever intended to influence Justice Jafta.

“If you try to interpret it as a stand-alone, it doesn’t actually say, “You are our last hope,” Mathenjwa said.

ALSO READ: After a decade Hlophe faces reckoning

The allegations against Hlophe date back to March 2008, when he is said to have approached both Jafta – then acting on the apex court’s bench – and now retired Justice Bess Nkabinde, to try and swing cases involving Zuma his way in a bid to secure his then pending presidency.

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