Judges Hlophe and Motata to face impeachment

Judge Nkola Motata and Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe. Picture: Independent Newspapers Archive

Judge Nkola Motata and Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe. Picture: Independent Newspapers Archive

Published Feb 2, 2024


Judges John Hlophe and Nkola Motata will know in 20 days’ time – the same day Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana tables the 2024 Budget – whether or not they will be impeached, if Parliament is not interdicted on the same day.

The vote on the fate of the two judges by MPs will take place late in the afternoon, after Godongwana has delivered his Budget speech.

This emerged on Thursday when the National Assembly programme committee heard that Godongwana would table his Budget at a physical sitting in the Cape Town City Hall at 2pm.

After this, the House would adjourn to resume at 4pm for MPs to individually cast their votes via a roll call.

In November, Parliament decided to vote on the removal of judges Hlophe and Motata before the end of this month.

This was after the justice and correctional services portfolio committee adopted the report recommending their removal from office after they were afforded an opportunity to make written representations.

The pair were found guilty of gross misconduct by the Judicial Service Commission.

The gross misconduct charges against Judge Hlophe emanate from a complaint to the Judicial Service Commission by the Constitutional Court justices that he had improperly attempted to influence the apex court’s impending judgment in the Zuma-Thint matters.

Judge Motata’s charge relates to a court case when he instructed his lawyer to inform the court that he was not drunk at the scene of a car accident.

On Thursday, DA chief whip Siviwe Gwarube said the Cape Town City Hall was a good venue and she wanted to know if voting would be manual as was normally done with special majority votes in the past.

A two-thirds majority of MPs, which is a minimum of 267 MPs, is required to pass a resolution to remove a judge from office on the grounds of incapacity, gross incompetent or gross misconduct.

IFP chief whip Narend Singh raised concerns that the vote would take place on the same day as the tabling of the Budget.

Singh said they were concerned that a precedent was being set to have another matter post-Budget.

He wanted to know whether the vote on impeachment of the judges would be stopped if there was an interdict.

Judge Hlophe announced last week that he had brought a court application because Parliament wanted to proceed with his impeachment while there were still pending legal processes.

“As of now, there is no interdict on Parliament to prevent any matter from proceeding. I want to make sure if my understanding is correct?” Singh said.

In response, National Assembly secretary Masibulele Xaso said voting on the removal from office of judges Hlophe and Motata would be manual.

“Members’ names will be called by roll call because of the special majority required for those items.

The position is that unless there is a court order, the National Assembly will proceed,” Xaso said.

National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula reiterated that they would proceed with the impeachment if there was no interdict.

“Unless there is another development, but for now everything points to February 21 being the day for the discussion of the matter and for everything else to be done,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.

She said the concerns raised by Singh about setting a precedent had not arisen at the chief whips forum meeting.

“For now, the report I have is that we have agreed that we will proceed on February 21,” said Mapisa-Nqakula.

Elaborating on the issue of an interdict, parliamentary legal adviser Charmaine van der Merwe said: “We confirm that from the court papers there is no indication that the process in Parliament must be halted, and accordingly there is no request and there is no interdict.

“Parliament may proceed on those matters in respect of Judge Hlophe.”

Cape Times