‘Hlophe created a climate of fear on the Bench’
Cape Town - Judge President of the Western Cape John Hlophe may be allowed to give his side of the story to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).
This follows a complaint by his deputy, Judge Patricia Goliath, that Judge Hlophe abused his powers and there was rife intimidation and a climate of fear on the Bench.
In the complaint to the JSC, Judge Goliath said Judge Hlophe appointed his wife, Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe, to high-profile matters and that the latter wielded enormous power in the division. Judge Goliath also accused Hlophe of stripping her of her powers and was now the deputy judge president by name only. She said there was a climate of fear on the Bench because of Judge Hlophe’s conduct.
“The division is currently divided and, more seriously, a climate of fear and intimidation prevails,” Goliath states in the complaint to the JSC.
She further adds: “In my humble view, Judge Hlophe is acting in an unconstitutional manner, causing divisions on the Bench, abusing his powers in the exercise of this function as judge president of the division, especially in unilaterally removing me from my constitutionally appointed position.”
Judge Goliath also said that Judge Hlophe had tried to influence her to appoint judges who were supportive of former president Jacob Zuma in the nuclear matter in court a few years back.
“When the matter of Earthlife Africa and the minister of energy and six others had to be allocated, Judge Hlophe told me that the criticism against former president Zuma with regard to the nuclear deal was unwarranted. He attempted to influence me to allocate the matter to two judges he perceived to be favourably disposed to the former president,” she wrote.
Judge Goliath also accused Judge Salie-Hlophe of wielding enormous power on the Bench and that she was involved in the appointment of acting judges and that she, Goliath, had been sidelined.
“Surprisingly he also stated I had been working to get him out of the division, that he was going nowhere and would not take his annual long leave as long as I am in the court building,” Judge Goliath said.
She said this was when Judge Hlophe was supposed to go on a threemonth leave but instead remained at work, insinuating that she was going to take his job.
Judge Goliath has further accused Judge Hlophe of physically attacking another judge and this appalled fellow judges on the Bench. JSC spokesperson JC Fourie, confirming receipt of the complaint, e said Judge Hlophe would be given an opportunity to respond to the allegations against him.
The matter would be taken through the formal processes, and this would include the judicial committee, comprising three judges, to investigate the complaint. Fourie indicated this was a lengthy process that would involve various stages.
Judge Hlophe’s lawyer, Barnabas Xulu, did not respond to questions sent to him on Wednesday and Judge Hlophe did not answer his phone.