Judge President Hlophe matter can only be resolved in terms of the law, says Mogoeng
JOHANNESBURG - Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has been aware of the allegations against Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe since late 2019, but the matter can only be resolved through the application of the law, he said on Sunday.
Western Cape Deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath had asked for a meeting with Mogoeng in October 2019, which then took place on October 11, 2019, he said in a statement which had been "necessitated by media enquiries".
At the meeting, Goliath had informed him that her relationship with Hlophe had become difficult, Mogoeng said.
She also said that two judges had informed her about an alleged assault on one of them by Hlophe.
Although she said nothing about her intention to lodge a complaint against Hlophe concerning their relationship, she however indicated that the judge who was allegedly assaulted by Hlophe was thinking about doing so.
She also informed him that the alleged victim was uncertain about the appropriateness of reporting the alleged assault to the police and the Judicial Conduct Committee. This was so, she said, because the alleged victim thought Mogoeng would view reporting the matter to the police and Judicial Conduct Committee as conduct that would bring the judiciary into disrepute.
At the request of the alleged victim of the assault and another judge, she had come to find out from him whether he would have any principled objection to the allegations being reported to the police and Judicial Conduct Committee, Mogoeng said.
Mogoeng said he had told Goliath that any allegation of misconduct against any judge must, in terms of the Code of Judicial Conduct and the Judicial Service Commission Act, be reported to the Judicial Conduct Committee. Additionally, any allegation of a commission of a crime must, without hesitation, be reported to the police.
He also informed Goliath that failure by any judge to report these allegations to the structures with the legal authority to address them would be a betrayal of what judgeship or the judiciary was all about. He stood by this position and would always encourage any alleged wrongdoing or alleged crime to be reported promptly.
As he had previously iterated, he never had, nor had he now, the legal authority to personally deal with these issues outside of the processes under the JSC Act. To suggest otherwise could either be "actuated by nefarious reasons (eg a long-standing desperation to find fault) or misapprehension of the law".
So far, none of those who had asked Mogoeng to intervene in the Western Cape High Court could, when he pertinently asked them to, point to any provision in the Constitution, Judicial Service Commission Act, any other Act of Parliament, any regulation or rule that empowered him to discipline a judge or cause him or her to be suspended, as many had suggested.
Instead, they had suggested that he either pleads with Hlophe to go on leave or somehow use the “prestige’’ of his office to “normalise’’ the Western Cape situation.
"Yes, the Chief Justice has been aware of the allegations against Judge President Hlophe since late 2019. But those allegations can only be resolved through the application of the law. It is necessary to emphasise that he does not have the power to resolve these challenges and cannot therefore exercise power he does not have," Mogoeng said.
According to media reports, Hlophe is alleged to have tried to influence Constitutional Court Judges Bess Nkabinde and Chris Jafta in the corruption case involving former president Jacob Zuma and a French arms company in the arms deal in 2008.
Further allegations, among others, reportedly involve failure to declare certain income he received and verbal abuse against a white lawyer. Goliath has reportedly also accused Hlophe of gross misconduct.