South Africa

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Twelve years later: Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe finally faces impeachment and removal from the Bench

Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla / Daily Maverick)

Hlophe will be the first judge in democratic South Africa to face impeachment should all go according to plan and the law.

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has decided to uphold an April 2021 report and recommendation of a Judicial Conduct Tribunal that Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe face impeachment.

In a statement on behalf of the JSC on Wednesday, advocate Dali Mpofu said that Hlophe and all other parties had been invited to “show cause” as to whether the JSC should recommend the suspension of Hlophe pending the finalisation of the matter in the National Assembly.

Hlophe will be the first judge in democratic South Africa to face impeachment should all go according to plan and the law.

On 9 April, the Judicial Conduct Tribunal unanimously found Hlophe guilty of gross misconduct in that he had tried, in 2008, to influence two Constitutional Court judges to “violate their oaths of office” and to rule favourably in a matter involving former president Jacob Zuma.

During the tribunal hearing in December 2020 the chair, Judge Joop Labuschagne, stripped away Hlophe’s convoluted defence, stating: “Throughout the 12-year period, the complaint has simply been that he [Hlophe] had sought to improperly influence the outcome of the Zuma-Thint application pending in the Constitutional Court. Justice [Bess] Nkabinde and Justice [Chris] Jafta never changed their version of their encounters with Judge President Hlophe.”

Mpofu said the matter would now be referred to the National Assembly for its decision and that all parties would be furnished with copies of the majority and minority views.

The decision by the “small” JSC of 14 (minus National Assembly and National Council of Provinces members) took four months because a “consensus” could initially not be reached.

Hlophe still has some rope and is most likely to challenge the JSC’s decision. In the meantime, it will be up to the JSC and the president whether Hlophe will continue to oversee one of the most fraught judicial divisions in the country. DM

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  • The “Stalingrad”defence will continue. Only at the very last moment is Hlope likely to resign. With his dreadful record one would have thought he should have “left” long long ago.