John Hlophe. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
John Hlophe. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

As the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) had no intention of ever dealing with judge president John Hlophe’s alleged 2008 attempts to “throw” a Constitutional Court case, I fully expect its members to weave a  tortured path around the latest accusations (“Hlophe saga is casting a shadow over the judiciary, says justice Cameron”, February 20). It’s just another case of  inactivity allowing evil to flourish. In this case the real evil consists of lacerating confidence in the Western Cape judicial system.

My grandfather was chief justice of  Northern Ireland for 20 years, a not dissimilar jurisdiction to the Western Cape. Understanding the tensions that simmered beneath the surface, not even his efforts to enforce the rule of law  were enough to prevent the north from sliding into a low-grade civil war.

I remember him saying the rule of law was rather like a paper currency — the value of both depended on their  being trusted by those who were subject to them. For fiat currencies, a deficit of trust resulted in hyperinflation and economic collapse. In the case of the rule of law, the deficit resulted in anarchy of the worst sort. He experienced it personally, surviving a bomb explosion in a lecture theatre.

Being of the view, reinforced through experience, that the veneer of civilisation is woefully thin, my grandfather knew that on both personal and professional levels a judge, as representative of the rule of law, had to be extremely mindful of his behaviour. In places like Northern Ireland and SA, given the underlying tension, judges and especially judge presidents must bear an even greater burden. The information  already available in the public space about Hlophe is damning. The longer nothing is done, the closer we will all slide towards the brink.           

James Cunningham, Camps Bay

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