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Judge Kgomo’s defamation lawsuit against John Block is abuse of power – lawyers

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Retired Judge Frans Kgomo’s defamation lawsuit against former Northern Cape ANC provincial chairperson John Block and his two legal representatives is an abuse of power and court process, according to a legal team representing one of the defendants.

Retired Judge Frans Kgomo is suing John Block and his two legal representatives for R7.5 million in a defamation action. File picture: Phando Jikelo, African News Agency (ANA)

RETIRED Judge Frans Kgomo’s defamation lawsuit against former Northern Cape ANC provincial chairperson John Block and his two legal representatives is believed to be an abuse of power and court process.

A legal team representing one of the defendants said this is something egregiously at odds with section 165 of the Constitution.

They said it is unfathomably an onslaught on the Constitution itself and the interests of justice.

This was after Kgomo said he was suing Block and his two legal representatives for R7.5 million in a defamation action.

The claim stems from Block’s corruption trial, in which he alleged in an affidavit that Kgomo had told the presiding officer: “Convict the bastard”.

Kgomo also claimed that he was defamed when Block stated in an affidavit during his 2016 trial before Judge Violet Phatshoane that Kgomo had exerted undue influence on her as the presiding officer.

The alleged defamatory statement against Kgomo was alleged to have been made during Block’s trial as a special entry before the verdict was delivered.

However, in a replying affidavit, the lawyers argued that Block’s ultimate conviction was premised on the ulterior motive to eventually recoup damages on behalf of Kgomo and intended to wield the testimony of Phatshoane as an illegitimate tool to achieve an ulterior purpose.

They argued this meant that any accused person would not be able to exercise their constitutional rights in any trial for fear of being sued by the judge or judges involved in the administration and adjudication of their criminal trial.

The lawyers said the actions of Kgomo and Phatshoane were tantamount to a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP).

“We can no doubt be scorching and indifferent in the approach taken by the judges which breeds injustice and also tarnishes the image of the judiciary. These judges have repeatedly conducted themselves in a manner abhorrent to the constitutional tenets and prescripts which they swore to uphold by pursuing this frivolous and vexatious lawsuit against all the three defendants,” read the papers.

Block, who is also the former MEC for Transport, Roads, and Public Works, was jailed for corruption linked to office leases for government departments at inflated prices.

Block reported the matter to the office of the Chief Justice in May 2016.

In the complaint, Block said he heard of the allegations from two attorneys of the record in his criminal trial at a meeting at the Protea Hotel in Kimberley.

He said the extent of the information received and conveyed pertained to the following: “A black judge, in the presence of the Judge President of the Northern Cape, Judge President Kgomo, overhead a telephonic conversation between the presiding judge in this matter, Judge Phatshoane and Judge President Kgomo,” read the affidavit.

“Judge Phatshoane conveyed to Judge President Kgomo that she does not have to convict me, John Block, on the charges arraigned on before her.

He said the conversation had taken place at some stage after an argument by legal counsel on May 20, 2015, and the delivery of judgment on October 13, 2015.

“It is unknown to me who the judge was in the presence of the Judge President and who overheard this telephonic discussion.”

Block said this resulted in Phatshoane succumbing to the pressure exerted on her to convict him.

On Thursday the matter was postponed as Block had to attend a hearing for another matter related to his application for remission of his sentence for his application matter on Friday.

ALSO READ: John Block released on parole

During the hearing, Block said the allegations were made in court chambers and were never made public until Kgomo’s lawsuit. He said he heard allegations that Kgomo and Phatshoane collaborated to jail him.

On the other hand, Kgomo’s representative said Block and his legal representative based their allegations on hearsay as he did not know who the Judge that overheard that Kgomo colluded to have him convicted was.

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