South Africa

Judiciary in Crisis

Chief Justice Mogoeng says he is hands-off in alleged Goliath assassination plot investigation

Chief Justice Mogoeng says he is hands-off in alleged Goliath assassination plot investigation
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. Lawyers we spoke to blamed the problems at the Pretoria High Court on the Office of the Chief Justice. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Mike Hutchings / Pool)

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has denied that he personally ordered extra security for Western Cape Deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath after an alleged assassination plot was uncovered. He also denied sending officials to investigate the plot.

In the emerging showdown between Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe and Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, the Office of the Chief Justice has finally broken its silence on the matter.

In a media statement issued on Sunday, a full nine days after reports of the alleged plot were first revealed in the media, the Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ) sought to clarify its “position” on the “handling of the alleged plot to assassinate Deputy Judge President Goliath”.

The OCJ also revealed that two months after the alleged plot had been reported on and investigated – in which a senior Cape Town DPCI (Hawks) member had been implicated – the Western Cape SAPS had still not furnished the office with a report.

An investigation into the alleged planned hit was conducted by the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS) and a report was compiled which found enough evidence existed to warrant further investigation.

Inspecting Judge Edwin Cameron later confirmed that he had dispatched “two straight-as-arrow senior members” of his executive to the correctional facility to interview all the role players.

Cameron added that he trusted “their integrity and their good sense and their good judgment as well”.

The JICS report implicated former police officer Sibonelo Myeza, who was arrested in connection with the assassination of former ANCYL secretary-general and later Umzimkhulu councillor Sindiso Magaqa in 2017. It found also that Myeza appeared “untouchable” within the confines of the correctional facility and that even officials appeared to defer to him.

In a statement issued on 11 September, Hlophe’s legal representative Barnabas Xulu rubbished the JICS report, saying it was “flawed”.

Xulu also stated that the JSC itself had sent two officials to the correctional centre where plans for the alleged plot were overhead. These JSC officials had returned, said Xulu, with the opinion that “they disbelieved the whistle-blower and that his claims should not be entertained any further”.

However, in its statement, the OCJ denied that the JSC ever conducted any investigation into the plot or sent officials to interview the whistle-blower. The OCJ set out how on 4 June, the JSC Secretariat had received a call from a member of the Grahamstown Bar about an alleged plot to assassinate Deputy Judge President Goliath.

“This information was immediately relayed to the OCJ Head of Security. It is necessary to mention that the Secretariat did not at any given time send any investigators to investigate the alleged plot. 

“This is so because neither the Secretariat nor the JSC has the mandate to investigate such allegations.”

The responsibilities of the JSC Secretariat, said the OCJ, were limited to rendering administrative support to the JSC.

The statement on Sunday night was issued, said the OCJ, specifically to address the role of the Office of the Chief Justice “relating to its role in supporting the Judiciary with regard to their security”.

On the same date of the threat, the OCJ’s head of security had received information telephonically from Goliath herself as well as the JSC Secretariat about the alleged plot, said the OCJ.

“Pursuant to this information the Head of Security, as per OCJ standard protocol, requested Western Cape SAPS to conduct a threat and risk assessment with a view to providing security to the DJP, if necessary. 

“As an interim measure whilst waiting for the outcome of the threat and risk assessment, a contracted security service was provided to the DJP.”

The outcome of the threat assessment had been verbally communicated to the OCJ head of security and Goliath. 

“To date, OCJ has not received any written report from Western Cape SAPS.”

Security provided to members of the judiciary facing a threat was an OCJ administrative function “which did not require any involvement by the Chief Justice”.

“The Chief Justice does not commission any investigation into threats to members of the Judiciary and this matter was no exception. 

“It is the responsibility of OCJ officials, under the leadership of the Secretary General, as the Head of the OCJ as a National Department to request SAPS to conduct threat and risk assessments for the Judiciary where necessary,” read the statement.

Xulu, in his statement, accused Mogoeng of being “influenced” by the JICS report when he (Mogoeng) ruled on 3 July that a complaint by Goliath against Hlophe should be heard by the Judicial Conduct Tribunal.

“We noted an appeal against that ruling on 3 August 2020. In his ruling, Mogoeng CJ made reference to violence or abuse against women. This was, however, not contained in the papers before him.”

Xulu said on 31 August Hlophe had lodged a complaint of “gross judicial misconduct” against Mogoeng “relating to the biased manner in which he handled the complaint by Goliath DJP against him and the fact that the Chief Justice had adjudicated a complaint in which he was potentially a witness to the allegations”. 

Xulu charged that Mogoeng, after “receipt” of the JICS report had beefed up Goliath’s security. This and the fact that Hlophe later had to deal with an adverse ruling “requires a proper investigation into how these complaints have been adjudicated”.

Hlophe has called for a judicial commission of inquiry into the alleged assassination plot. DM

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