President Cyril Ramaphosa suspends Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe with immediate effect

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

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

Published Dec 14, 2022


Durban – President Cyril Ramaphosa has suspended Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe.

The suspension of Hlophe who is accused of gross misconduct while on the bench is with immediate effect.

However, the judge will be allowed to complete all cases he heard and hand down all reserved judgments – but that’s not clear how.

His suspension was announced by the presidency through a statement on Wednesday.

The office said it was based on the advice of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) and in terms of section 177(3) of the Constitution.

“In order to ensure continuity and stability in the work of the divisional high court, the suspension which is in effect immediately, is on condition that Judge President Hlophe completes all part-heard matters and reserved judgments,” the presidency said in a statement.

Letter supplied

Explaining the rationale for this decision, the presidency said Ramaphosa received the JSC report on July 27.

“Due to the long history and complexity of the matter, President Ramaphosa took time to carefully consider all the permutations of the JSC recommendations, including obtaining guidance from an independent legal opinion.

“The President fully appreciated the need to balance Judge President Hlophe’s rights with those of the public and the interest of the judiciary as a whole.

“Section 177 (3) of the Constitution provides that the President, on the advice of the JSC, may suspend a judge who is the subject of a procedure in terms of subsection (1) that deals with the removal of a judge who is found guilty of gross misconduct.

“The Judicial Conduct Tribunal (JCT) concluded that Judge President Hlophe’s conduct breached the provisions of section 165 of the Constitution by improperly attempting to influence the two Justices of the Constitutional Court to violate their oaths of office.

“The JCT established that Judge Hlophe’s behaviour seriously threatened and interfered with the independence, impartiality, dignity and effectiveness of the Constitutional Court and further undermined public confidence in the judicial system.

“The JSC has referred the matter to parliament for the National Assembly to institute impeachment proceedings against Judge President Hlophe,” reads the statement from the presidency.

Furthermore, it said since 2008, Hlophe has been accused of alleged judiciary misconduct after he was accused of trying to improperly influence judges on matters involving former president Jacob Zuma.

“In May 2008, 11 Justices of the Constitutional Court lodged a complaint with the JSC against Judge President Hlophe for his improper attempt to influence the outcome of certain cases pending before the Constitutional Court in favour of former President Jacob Zuma.”

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