Cape High Court judges accused of racism

Cape Town- South Africa (PANA) -- A sub-committee has been appointed to investigate allegations of racism at the High Court in Cape Town, South Africa.
The allegations surfaced when the Cape Provincial Division Judge President, John Hlophe, compiled a report alleging racism and handed it to Justice Minister Brigitte Mabandla.
Among the allegations were that a white judge had told his black colleagues that black people had corruption in their genes.
Cape Town's Chief Justice, Arthur Chaskalson, on Monday announced that he had requested the committee to give urgent attention to the matter and report to the heads of courts as soon as possible.
Other allegations were that there was a strong opposition to the appointment of black judges, and black judges who had made mistakes were ridiculed and some of their judgments were marked with red pen and circulated amongst members of the Bar.
Furthermore, black judges were allegedly told to stop speaking Zulu, whites excluded blacks from their lunch meetings and a black lawyer was rejected by white judges because he did not speak Afrikaans.
The Cape Bar Council has moved swiftly to deny the damaging allegations.
"The Cape Bar is most certainly not opposed to the appointment of black judges.
Not only have we supported suitable black candidates in the past.
"We have also urged black seniors at our bar to make themselves available for judicial appointment," the Council said in a statement issued in Cape Town.
It said it had never received any reports that its members had demonstrated a lack of support to black candidates once they had been appointed as judges.
"We are deeply committed to transforming the legal profession, including the bar.
Since September 2001 constitutionally-entrenched co-governance has existed at the Cape Bar.
Its 14-person council comprises an equal number of black and white members.
" Council spokesman Owen Rogers said it was unfortunate that the Judge President should apparently have over the years kept a growing catalogue of perceived complaints concerning members of the Cape Bar rather than raising them with the Bar Council as and when they occurred.
"The collective aim of members of the legal fraternity in the Western Cape should be to transform our institutions for the better, not to build up dossiers against each other.
"We would prefer the Judge President to engage constructively with us in our endeavours to transform.
We have kept him regularly informed of our transformation initiatives.
"Despite the discouragement represented by a report such as that which the Judge President has apparently delivered to the Minister, we will persist in our commitment to transformation and to justice.
These goals are more important than the personalities involved," he said.

15 february 2005 09:33:00

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