Western Cape High Court judge president John Hlophe has been accused by his deputy Patricia Goliath of trying to influence the appointment of judges in the 2015 “nuclear deal” case.

Deputy judge president Goliath has launched a “gross misconduct” complaint with the Judicial Services Commission (JSC). Goliath accuses Hlophe of attempting to interfere in the legal challenge to the inter-governmental agreement between South Africa and Russian nuclear agency Rosatom.

Goliath alleges that Hlophe told her that “criticism of former President Jacob Zuma with regard to the controversial nuclear deal was unwarranted”. 

“He attempted to influence me to allocate the matter to two judges he perceived to be favourably disposed towards the former president. I immediately dismissed the idea,” she said. Goliath said that although Hlope was unhappy about her decision, he did not pursue the matter.

Goliath’s affidavit filed before the JSC states that this “misconduct compromises the proper functioning of our court, the concomitant imperatives of integrity and significantly, and severely, impinges on the court’s dignity”.

“I am sharply aware of the broader ramifications of this complaint.

However, I am left with no option but to pursue it in the light of the continuous, and sustained assault upon my dignity by [Hlophe] who makes my working conditions intolerable”.

The R1-trillion estimated cost of the nuclear programme — equivalent to about 60% of government expenditure in the 2018/2019  fiscal year — would have crippled the economy.

In 2017 the High Court ruled that the intergovernmental agreements were unlawful.

Hlophe is still facing a possible JSC misconduct inquiry over allegations that he sought to influence two Constitutional Court justices to rule in favour of Zuma during Zuma’s 2008 challenge to the warrants used to secure thousands of documents that were later used in his corruption trial. That inquiry has been beset by delays and legal challenges.

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