Judge Hlophe’s suspension is no longer imminent after withdrawal of urgent application
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Cape Town - Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe no longer faces imminent suspension.
This follows the abandonment and withdrawal of his urgent review application to interdict the National Assembly from proceeding with its consideration and processing of his recommended removal from office by the Judicial Services Commission (JSC).
Hlophe’s advocate, Lihle Sidaki, and the JSC agreed to abandon the urgent application, which was labelled Part A, when the case came before Gauteng High Court Judge Roland Sutherland.
Speaking to Sidaki, Judge Sutherland said Part B, which is where Judge Hlophe wants the JSC’s finding of gross misconduct against him set aside, was all that was left.
“You and the representative of the JSC must sit down and work out a decent timetable, something sensible, for the exchange of affidavits and heads of argument.
“Once you’ve done that, you should email my office and I will fix the earliest convenient date after the heads of argument have been filed in order to hear this.
“If you can’t reach agreement on the exchange of those documents, you must tell me and I’ll unilaterally set a time table for when this matter will be heard.”
Speaking after the 40-minute court session, Hlophe’s attorney Barnabas Xulu said: “I am so excited that suspension is now off the cards. Now we can allow the courts to do their work.
“Let us now allow the court to ventilate the very important constitutional issues that have been raised in the matter of Part B,” said Xulu.
He said Parliament must now wait for the courts to ventilate all the issues. It is now about how long that process will take
Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said she welcomed the abandonment and withdrawal and would abide by the court’s ruling.
In her explanatory affidavit filed in response to the interdict application, the Speaker had said that the impeachment proceedings, which are currently at the level of the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services for processing, would only practically take place after November 3.
“Therefore, Judge President Hlophe can accordingly have no apprehension of the process proceeding until November 2021,” said the Speaker in a statement.
Glynnis Breytenbach, the DA’s Justice and Constitutional Development parliamentary spokesperson, said: “Judge President Hlophe’s decision to abandon his application possibly stems from the fact that Parliament will not consider the matter until November, and the JSC has indicated that it does not view the matter as urgent.”
Judges Matter campaign research and advocacy officer Mbekezeli Benjamin said that In light of the withdrawal, Judges Matter hopes that his review application will be heard as soon as possible, ideally before the end of the year.
“The longer the Hlophe misconduct case remains unresolved, the greater harm is done to the reputation of the judiciary.
“In our view, there’s no legal impediment to Parliament proceeding with the impeachment process, although we accept that Parliament might, like the JSC, decide to wait until the review application is adjudicated upon,” said Benjamin.