Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Legal opinion on Judge John Hlophe sparks debate among MPs

By Mayibongwe Maqhina, Mayibongwe Maqhina Time of article published Nov 18, 2021

Share this article:

Cape Town – The proposal by the official opposition that Parliament share its legal opinion on the removal from office of Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe with the Presidency sparked a debate among MPs on Thursday.

This after National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula informed the Programme Committee she had received a legal opinion and would direct it be circulated to all the parties.

“Parties can just familiarise themselves with the opinion. However, at this point I will not allow for the opening of a discussion on the matter,” she said.

Mapisa-Nqakula said she would make a determination at the point when the matter was brought to the House.

“I am aware that the matter is in court. I know Judge Hlophe is challenging this issue,” she said.

This prompted DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone to say since Hlophe was no longer in the running for the Chief Justice position, the legal opinion could be shared with the Presidency.

“It would be right to send that legal opinion to the president’s office, given the short-listing of judges. The president should be given the legal opinion together with the rest of us,” Mazzone said.

But ANC MP Mmatlala Grace Boroto asked whether it would be proper for the committee to send the legal opinion to the Presidency.

“Where is separation of powers?” Boroto asked, adding that the national legislature should not do as requested by Mazzone.

Hope Papo, parliamentary counsellor to Deputy President David Mabuza, said such a move would create perceptions that they were campaigning against Hlophe.

He said the executive should seek its own legal opinion just as Parliament had done.

“I don't think the president can ask for legal opinion from the legislative sector. They will ask for what purpose did you give us that opinion,’” Papo said.

EFF MP Natasha Ntlangwini said the Presidency was well equipped to investigate matters and obtain legal opinion on anyone if placed in a position.

“It is not for this body to feed information, which is not our role. Let us wait on the process until it is done,” Ntlangwini said.

She, however, said it was a pity Hlophe did not make the cut on the shortlist of judges to be interviewed by the Judicial Service Commission.

“It would have been interesting,” she said.

UDM’s Nqabayomzi Kwankwa said it was important Parliament focused on ensuring the process to remove Hlophe was not only fair but was seen to be fair.

“We should not be bothered by what other stakeholders are doing. We should focus on discharging our constitutional mandate to the best of our ability,” Kwankwa said.

EFF’s Hlengiwe Mkhaliphi warned that sharing the legal opinion would create an impression that Parliament has already pre-empted a decision to be taken in the portfolio committee.

“Let’s avoid putting Parliament into this discussion whereby we are perceived as parliament dealing with the individual,” she said.

Mazzone insisted that they would be within all legal rights to forward any legal opinion if they so wished.

“Any arm of government can forward a legal opinion. It means absolutely nothing,” she said before dismissing suggestions that doing so would be lobbying for or against anything.

“We are allowed to enter into robust debate, which is what we are supposed to do. We are all about holding the executive to account, which is what we do,” Mazzone added.

But, Mapisa-Nqakula reiterated that she would circulate the legal opinion to the parties.

“At an appropriate time, as the Speaker, I will make a determination. When the determination is brought to the House, you will know. Lastly, let’s stay out of the issue now,” she said.

[email protected]

Political Bureau

Share this article: