The Judicial Service Commission to investigate allegations by Western Cape deputy judge president Patricia Goliath against her boss, President John Hlophe. Pictures: SA Judiciary and African News Agency
Cape Town - The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) investigating the allegations against Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe and his wife, Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe, by Western Cape Deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath, said it would be premature and inappropriate to comment on the merits of the complaint.

JSC spokesperson JC Fourie on Wednesday confirmed they had received a complaint from Judge Goliath.

In her 14-page affidavit, she accused Judge Hlophe of “gross misconduct comprising the proper functioning of our court... the concomitant imperatives of integrity that significantly, and severely impinges on the court’s dignity”.

Fourie said: “The first step of the investigation will be dealt with by the judicial conduct committee. Thereafter, depending on the outcome, further processes might have to be followed.”

Judge Goliath reiterated that she was fully aware of the broader ramifications of her complaint, adding that she was left with no option but to pursue it in the light of a continued and sustained assault on her dignity by the judge president, who made her working conditions intolerable.

In her affidavit, the judge said in 2018 she acted as a justice in the Constitutional Court, went on long leave and returned to the high court on or about April 16, 2019.

“Upon my return, all my duties as deputy judge president were suspended. The judge president acted unilaterally. As was and is the norm, I presented myself at his Chambers in the first week of the term.

“He did not raise any problems with me; nor did he indicate that I was no longer required to perform my duties. There was no open process with regard to the suspension of my duties, and the other judges were not informed that I was no longer functioning as the deputy judge president.

“This caused me considerable embarrassment, especially when judges or counsel sought an audience with me,” she said.

Judge Goliath also raised the issue of the allocation of a judge in the Jason Rohde murder trial. Initially, Judge Goliath proposed in August 2017 that Judge Le Grange preside over the matter. She said Judge Hlophe disagreed and allocated the matter to his wife, Judge Salie-Hlophe.

“A week later, Judge Salie-Hlophe came to my Chambers to discuss the allocation. I explained that I had not considered her, simply because I was of the view that a more senior judge should be appointed.” (There was concern that the defence could lodge an appeal with the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) against Rohde’s conviction and sentence.)

Rohde was found guilty of murdering his wife Susan in 2016 and sentenced to an effective 20 years in prison. The SCA granted him bail of R200000 last month.

Judge Goliath also raised allegations of a sexual nature committed against a judge. The judge president was also alleged to have verbally abused the judge, also allegedly physically assaulting the latter in that judge’s chambers.

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