Western Cape Judiciary Crisis

Chief Justice Mogoeng recommends Hlophe face misconduct tribunal, dismisses claims against Goliath

By Marianne Thamm 3 July 2020
Caption
Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe. (Photo: Foto24 / Felix Dlangamandla / Gallo Images / Getty Images)

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has found that John Hlophe has a case to answer with regard to his alleged assault of Judge Mushtak Parker and that if the allegation is true, it is likely to lead to a finding of gross misconduct, followed by impeachment.

In a strong motivation handed down on 3 July 2020 for Hlophe to face a misconduct Tribunal, Mogoeng said he had personally intervened in the matter as a failure to do so “would have meant the matter be left unresolved for along time or forever”.

“It is simply unthinkable that a Judge President, however, angry he or she might be, would commit a crime of violence against another person, talk less of a fellow Judge within an institution that exists to rid society of criminality – a court of justice,” said Mogoeng.

If Hlophe had convinced Parker “through considerable discussion and with the help of other judges” to change his version of the assault that allegedly took place in 2019, this could be viewed “as conduct so serious as to also strike at the very heart of what judgeship is about – integrity or honesty and justice.”

The complaint of assault “is unprecedentedly serious within judicial circles and must be looked at thoroughly.”

Apart from the assault, the Tribunal will also consider Deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath’s complaint that Hlophe had used abusive language and had abused his power in the division.

While it was not clear whether Hlophe admitted or denied telling Goliath “you are rubbish and a piece of shit, get out of my office” the release of a transcript of a the conversation which had been taped was not challenged by the JP.

“To have it established that someone who occupies the exalted office of the Judge President said to a woman DJP that she is ‘rubbish’ and ‘a piece of shit’, in an era when women abuse even at the workplace is reportedly on the rise, is likely to result in a finding that the JP is guilty of gross misconduct unless lip service is being paid to fight against women abuse,” said the CJ

With regard to Goliath’s complaint that Hlophe had appointed a junior judge, Taswell Papier, to perform the functions of a DJP, bypassing Goliath, this too would amount to abuse of power of judicial office.

“Abuse of power by those charged with the duty to stem the tide of abuse of power and corruption is in my view very serious indeed.”

Whoever acts as a Deputy Judge President should not “be made to look like a consequence of some patronage system.”

Mogoeng also dismissed, entirely, a counter-complaint by Hlophe lodged against Goliath.

While Deputy Chief Justice, Raymond Zondo, as Acting Chair of the Judicial Conduct Committee (JCC), had referred Goliath’s complaint to a panel consisting of Judges Zondi, Dambuza and Mojapelo, they were “disqualified from entertaining this matter by reason of their prior involvement,” said the CJ.

He added that satisfied there was no “reasonable likelihood that a formal hearing would contribute to a proper determination of the complaints” the matter would be decided “on the papers before me”. DM

Gallery

ANALYSIS

Mayor Geoff Makhubo is Joburg’s path to chaos, and more chaos

By Stephen Grootes