South Africa


Western Cape High court judge to face inquiry into charges of misconduct

IIlustrative image. Photo: Istinomertt/Flickr

In a significant move, the secretariat of the Judicial Conduct Committee has announced that Western Cape High Court Judge, Gayaat Salie-Hlophe, will face an inquiry after a complaint lodged by Deputy Judge President of the division, Patricia Goliath.

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, who chairs the Judicial Conduct Committee (JCC), has designated SCA Judge Nambitha Dambuza, who is also a member of the JCC, to conduct an inquiry into Western Cape Deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath’s complaint.

Goliath lodged a 14-page complaint with the Judicial Service Commission alleging “gross misconduct” on the part of Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe as well as his wife Judge Salie-Hlophe. Their actions, said Goliath, had compromised the proper functioning of the Western Cape High Court.

Goliath accused Judge President John Hlophe of attempting to influence appointments to the Bench, of assaulting a fellow judge, while also claiming that Salie-Hlophe wielded unusual influence when it came to the appointment of acting judges in the division.

The announcement on Monday 9 March 2020 by the JCC secretariat now means that Dambuza will consider the merits of the complaint against Salie-Hlophe only at this stage. 

The JCC said Judge Raymond Zondo had been satisfied that in terms of section 17(1) of the Judicial Service Commission Act, should Goliath’s complaint against Salie-Hlophe be found to be valid, Salie-Hlophe would face “lesser sanction than impeachment”.

This would include “an apology to the complainant, a reprimand, a written warning, or appropriate counselling”.

An inquiry conducted in terms of section 17 is required to be “inquisitorial in nature and there is no onus on any person to prove or disprove any allegation of fact”. 

However, the inquiry, while not necessarily formal, “may be a formal inquiry if the member of the committee designated to conduct it decides that it should be…” 

Hlophe, in his 100-page affidavit to the JCC responding to Goliath’s complaint, said it had “all the hallmarks of a paranoid judge with little appreciation of collegiality, restraint, composure and confidentiality”.

He accused Goliath’s complaint of being “based on false claims” while Salie-Hlophe claimed that Goliath’s approach to the JSC was an attempt to oust the Judge President so that she [Goliath] could succeed him. Salie-Hlophe has also said Goliath’s complaint was based on “ulterior motives”, accused her of racism and of having an “unhealthy obsession” with her marriage.

The JCC is yet to make an announcement on its decision with regard to Goliath’s complaint against the Judge President, who, since his appointment in 2000, has been the subject of several complaints as well as finding himself at the centre of several controversies. DM