JSC’s recommendation to impeach Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe welcomed
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Cape Town - The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has recommended impeachment of Western Cape judge president John Hlophe following him being found guilty of gross misconduct as per section 177 of the Constitution by the Judicial Conduct Tribunal.
The JSC held a meeting earlier on Wednesday at which it took the decision to uphold the report and recommendations of the Judicial Conduct Tribunal handed down on April 9.
In a terse four point statement JSC spokesperson advocate Dali Mpofu outlined the Commission’s reasons.
Mpofu said that in line with the provisions of the Constitution, the matter of the impeachment would be referred to the National Assembly for its decision.
“The National Assembly and the parties will be furnished with copies of both the majority and minority views. In line with the principles of natural justice, the JSC has invited the parties to show cause why it should or should not advise the president to suspend Judge President Hlophe pending the finalisation of the matter by the National Assembly,” said Mpofu.
Freedom Under Law chief executive Nicole Fritz said: “We welcome the decision. For too long the failure to take action in respect of JP Hlophe has impaired public confidence in the administration of justice.
“Today’s decision means we are that much closer to shutting the door on this destructive chapter.”
Judges Matter campaign research and advocacy officer Mbekezeli Benjamin said the group also welcomed the JSC’s decision to impeach Judge Hlophe.
“Although it has taken far too long for the JSC to deal with this complaint, it’s important that it is now closer to resolution.
“We hope that this will bring new life to the system to hold judges accountable. It’s now up to the Speaker of the National Assembly to call an urgent sitting where members of Parliament will debate the JSC’s decision and take a vote.
“A two thirds majority is needed to remove a judge from office. We hope that Speaker Mapisa-Nqakula will take this responsibility seriously, and act to protect the dignity of the judiciary. In the meantime, we urge the JSC to act promptly to suspend Judge Hlophe while the parliamentary processes unfold,” said Benjamin.
The issue of gross misconduct arose when 11 justices of the Constitutional Court lodged a complaint against Judge Hlophe over 13 years ago, in May 2008.
At the time, then ANC president Jacob Zuma was challenging the Scorpions’ search and seizure warrants used to gather 93 000 pages of corruption trial evidence against him.
In June 2008 Judge Hlophe lodged a counter-complaint against the 11 judges. He accused them of having undermined the Constitution by making a public statement alleging improper conduct on his part before properly filing a complaint with the JSC.
He further complained that, by filing the complaint even before they had heard his version of the events, they had violated his rights to dignity, privacy, equality, procedural fairness and access to courts.
The tribunal, consisted of Judge Joop Labuschagne, a retired Judge of the Gauteng Division of the High Court; Judge Tati Makgoka, a Judge of the Supreme Court of Appeal and Nishani Pather, a practising attorney.
The Tribunal’s report said: “Given the length of time it has taken to determine the merits of the complaint, it is prudent to give a full account of the undoubtedly inordinate delay. Much of the delay was due to litigation brought by one or the other of the main parties in the matter.”