Opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema said on Wednesday that his party is fully behind controversial Western Cape judge president John Hlophe to succeed Mogoeng Mogoeng as South Africa’s chief justice.Hlophe is among the eight nominees selected by members of the public for the position as encouraged by President Cyril Ramaphosa, who wanted to have wide consultations to fill the most important judiciary post.
Hlophe, however, comes with a heavy integrity baggage on his back which has been hovering for over a decade, denting his candidacy in the process, observers said.
This came about when Constitutional Court justices Bess Nkabinde and Chris Jafta said Hlophe had personally tried to convince them to give judgement in favour of the former president Jacob Zuma in two cases in 2008 that implicated the latter in corruption.
Zuma was just one year into his presidency at the time after ousting former president Thabo Mbeki at the December 2007 ruling African National Congress conference, thereby succeeding him to the party presidency — which months later translated into the state presidency.
Malema said Hlophe did nothing wrong.
“I think, on that list, he is highly qualified. He is the best legal brain, a man of integrity and honour,” Malema said.
He added: “This thing that they are talking about, about Judge Hlophe, it’s nonsense. What Hlophe did is a general practice in the judiciary. They talk to each other about cases all the time.”
The presidency has published the list of eight nominees to be considered as candidates for the chief justice position which falls vacant on 11 October.
The candidates are justices Hlophe, Justice Mbuyiseli Madlanga, Justice Mandisa Maya, Wallace Mgoqi, current Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, Judge President Dunstan Mlambo, Alan Nelson, and Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, who is also chair of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.
The public has until 15 October to raise objections, the presidency said.