Cape judge president John Hlophe may not serve as the presiding judge in the Dewani murder case.
“A judge is only allocated to hear a trial close to the beginning (of when the trial is expected to start),” said Cape Bar chairman Alasdair Sholto-Douglas on Monday.
Judge Hlophe, who earlier sentenced Zola Tonga, the driver of murdered tourist Anni Dewani, to 18 years’ imprisonment, has been described as “controversial” in recent UK press reports.
Dewani’s husband, Shrien, is accused of paying about R15 000 for a hit on his bride during their honeymoon in Cape Town. Shrien Dewani’s publicist, Max Clifford, has raised questions in the British media about the impartiality of South Africa’s courts.
The Sunday Telegraph quoted Dewani’s cousin, Akta Raja, as saying: “Your fears deepen when you hear Judge John Hlophe, who sentenced your driver and who may preside over any trial, is a controversial figure. Are you sure you will be treated fairly?”
The UK press also highlighted Judge Hlophe’s run-in with the Judicial Service Commission, which labelled his behaviour as “unacceptable” after he was found to have accepted money from an asset management company without declaring it. It also noted Judge Hlophe’s son had recently been convicted on charges of fraud.
Judge Hlophe did not respond on Mondayday to requests for comment on the British media reports.
Shrien Dewani is on R2.5 million bail. His extradition hearing in Bristol has been set for January 20. - Cape Times