What we know and what should happen now?
Let’s begin with Deputy Judge President John Hlophe’s response via his attorney Barnabas Xulu on 11 September 2020 that a judicial commission of inquiry be established to get to the bottom of a matter which now threatens the independence and authority of the judiciary.
If such a commission were to be set up it is vital that the DPCI and the Hawks form part of this. This is because a member of the DPCI in Cape Town has been implicated in the JICS report as having made the request on behalf of Hlophe.
This is a serious allegation, implicating law enforcement agencies, which possess enormous powers of access and investigation.
It would serve the interests of justice also for Judge President Hlophe to stand down while the matter is excavated in public hearings, should these occur.
What we also know is that little or nothing was done after the JICS report had been forwarded, as Inspecting Judge Edwin Cameron has confirmed, to a “very limited number of persons” with the comment that the allegations warranted further investigation.
Daily Maverick has reliably learned that no investigation into the matter had been registered by either the SAPS or the DPCI a full two months after the issuance of the JICS report.
We know that Goliath was tipped off about an alleged plot to assassinate her after a whistleblower in a Pietermaritzburg facility claimed that in May 2020 he had overheard a call from an alleged hitman to another cellmate.
The cellmate was identified in the JICS report as ex-policeman, Sibonelo Myeza, arrested in 2018 in connection with the assassination of ANCYL secretary-general and later Umzimkhulu councillor, Sindiso Magaqa in 2017.
Hlophe through Xulu has labelled the JICS report as “deeply flawed and malicious, and lacking in authenticity and professionalism”.
Judge Cameron on the other hand has stated that he dispatched “two straight-as-arrow senior members of my executive down and I trust their integrity and their good sense and their good judgement as well”.
The whistleblower contacted the Judicial Services Commission speaking to a receptionist and then later to spokesperson Sello Chiloane.
Goliath has confirmed that she was contacted by members of the Grahamstown Bar, after the whistleblower had called their offices. That call, said Goliath, had been relayed to a Judge at the Grahamstown High Court.
Goliath had then contacted the JSC which had immediately provided extra security.
According to Xulu, who named the whistleblower in his public statement, thus potentially endangering his life, the JSC had sent its own officials to the correctional facility.
These officials had returned, said Xulu, with the opinion that they disbelieved the whistleblower and that his claims should not be entertained any further, a claim that Daily Maverick could not independently confirm. In fact, The Office of the Chief Justice has yet to respond to any of Daily Mavericks’ queries in relation to the JICS report or any other report.
The JSC and the Office of the Chief Justice have remained silent throughout the matter and have not responded to questions sent by the Daily Maverick.
The Ministry of Justice only issued a statement after Daily Maverick had contacted the Minister’s office seeking comment on the JICS report and its contents. Ministry spokesperson Chrispin Phiri later said the report had been forwarded to law enforcement agencies.
The JSC has not acknowledged or denied that it sent two of its own investigators to the correctional facility or what their findings were.
The ongoing instability in the Western Cape Division, where high profile cases involving Xulu himself have been heard or are due to be heard, warrants a speedy resolution to what is clearly now an untenable situation.
In fact, this is a crisis.
Goliath lodged a complaint with the JSC in January 2020 alleging gross misconduct on behalf of Hlophe. Ten judges in the division came out in support of an allegation with regard to an alleged assault by Hlophe of a fellow judge, Mushtak Parker.
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng intervened in that matter saying Hlophe had a case to answer in the assault matter. The Chief Justice dismissed a counter-complaint by Hlophe against Goliath.
Hlophe, in his statement, has sought to suggest that the allegations of an alleged assassination plot have been concocted by the CJ Mogoeng and Goliath.
Xulu has written:
“While the Office of the Chief Justice has responded to a media inquiry in which it made it clear that there was no merit in these allegations that Judge President Hlophe was involved in alleged plot to kill Deputy Judge President, Judge President Hlophe will be seeking information as to when and how this information came to the attention of the Chief Justice, and whether these developments took place while Chief Justice Mogoeng was in the process of adjudicating a complaint laid by Deputy Judge President Goliath against Judge President Hlophe.”
The Office of the Chief Justice has yet to respond to any of Daily Maverick’s queries in relation to the JICS report or any other report. We have received no communication that “there was no merit in these allegations”. DM