South Africa

JUDICIARY IN CRISIS

Stalling on Hlophe impeachment decision exposes capture within Judicial Service Commission

Stalling on Hlophe impeachment decision exposes capture within Judicial Service Commission
Judge President of the Western Cape John Hlophe. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

The finding by a Judicial Conduct Tribunal was unequivocal – the Judge President of the Western Cape, John Hlophe, had tried to influence judges of the highest court of the land to violate their oaths of office in favour of then-president Jacob Zuma in 2008.

The tribunal unanimously found in April 2021 that: “Judge President Hlophe is guilty of gross misconduct as envisaged in Section 177 of the Constitution.”

Hlophe will be the first judge in democractic South Africa to be impeached should some members of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) locate their ethical compasses during the now delayed vote on the tribunal’s scathing findings.

Hlophe’s suspension was set to be decided on Friday, 4 June, by a “small” JSC of 14 (minus National Assembly and National Council of Provinces members) but the final verdict has been postponed to 30 July because of a “deadlock”, Daily Maverick has reliably learned.

Just how those who make up the JSC deliberating on the findings of the three-member tribunal chaired by Judge Joop Labuschagne could “not reach consensus” is mind-boggling, though not entirely unexpected.

The JSC has for years waded through treacle in holding judges to account, and particularly Hlophe.

What the postponement indicates is that not all JSC members believe Hlophe is guilty of gross misconduct and should be suspended ahead of a parliamentary vote on his potential removal from office.

Both “sides” have now been requested to write up their dissenting rulings, which should flush out those members of the JSC who have come out to bat for Hlophe. And put them on record.

These competing rulings will then be voted on, which will again expose where the rifts in the JSC lie and what legal argument will be forwarded that could possibly justify Hlophe’s continued tenure as Judge President of the Western Cape.

Hlophe has over the years slandered and accused many of his fellow judges. In fact, the tribunal condemned Hlophe’s conduct in relation to his accusations that former Chief Justice Pius Langa, and former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke had “manipulated facts” and had harboured a “political” motive for getting “rid” of him.

Hlophe has called his deputy, Patricia Goliath, a “nonentity” and has even accused Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng of being a liar and Islamophobic.

“We consider it our duty to vindicate the integrity of the Justices of the Constitutional Court, in particular Chief Justice Langa, Deputy Chief Justice Moseneke, Justice [Bess] Nkabinde and Justice [Chris] Jafta, whose integrity has been called into question by Judge President Hlophe’s unfounded and scurrilous attacks. They acted with honour to protect the institutional integrity of the apex court of our Republic,” the tribunal found.

The JSC confirmed the decision has been delayed with regard to a recommendation to President Cyril Ramaphosa that Hlophe be suspended prior to his impeachment inquiry.

Hlophe’s protectors are finally in the spotlight and how they justify his remaining on the Bench will also expose the depth of capture of the slothlike JSC. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Coen Gous says:

    Excellent article Marianne (especiallt the very last sentence). Regardless who has “a vote”, the JSC was captured by political parties, notably the EFF and the RET faction of the ANC. If those so-called “voters” vote against Hlophe’s impeachment, it would be anything but justice.

  • Charles Parr says:

    A very informative article but nevertheless it’s distressing to see how far up this rot goes.

  • Alley Cat says:

    I honestly thought I had seen it all and I truly disbelieved that our judges were part of the state capture project, but I now have my doubts… What is next? What other naïve beliefs of mine are going to be shattered.
    DEVASTATED!

  • Andrew Crichton says:

    Very distressing that truth and justice in this instance is a matter of “political” debate.

  • Louis Potgieter says:

    As if in a pact of stubborn resistance: Zuma, Motsuaneng, Moyane, Abrahams, Mkhwebane, Magashule, Hlope…

  • Alan Clark says:

    But exactly the same thing is happening with the Constitutional Court not passing judgement on Zuma. I cannot understand why the media, including DM, is not making a loud and constant noise about this. What is going on?

  • Kanu Sukha says:

    ” how they justify his remaining on the Bench” ??? … like the Republican judge in the ‘greatest’ democracy in the world just did a few days ago by overturning a state ban on ‘automatic weapons’ like the AR 15 as a violation of their constitutional right, and went further to glorify the weapon’s attributes ! I just have simple question for that ‘learned’ Judge – would you allow someone armed with such a weapon into your courtroom ? If not, why not ? And why not in a courtroom , but anywhere else ? The bottom line is one can ‘justify’ anything !

  • Chris 123 says:

    The JSC is as corrupt as the ANC.

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