Ramaphosa removes Judge President Hlophe from office

Western Cape High Court Judge President John Hlophe has officially been removed from office by President Cyril Ramaphosa. File picture: Adrian de Kock

Western Cape High Court Judge President John Hlophe has officially been removed from office by President Cyril Ramaphosa. File picture: Adrian de Kock

Published Mar 5, 2024


President Cyril Ramaphosa has officially written to the Western Cape High Court division Judge President John Mandlakayise Hlophe informing him of his “immediate removal from office”.

In a letter dated March 5, and signed by the Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola, it is indicated that Ramaphosa’s decision to remove Judge Hlophe was recorded and signed in Bela-Bela on March 1.

“I write to inform you that pursuant to the Judicial Service Commission's finding that you are guilty of gross misconduct; and a resolution adopted by the National Assembly with a supporting vote of more than two-thirds of its members calling for your removal from office, President Ramaphosa has decided, in terms of section 177(2) of the Constitution, to remove you from office with immediate effect. A copy of the President’s Minute is attached for your ease of reference,” read Lamola’s letter to Hlophe.

Hlophe’s removal followed his impeachment last week when the National Assembly voted in favour of his removal, with only 27 members of Parliament against the 305 parliamentarians, which included the ANC and the DA.

This was after the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) found Hlophe guilty of gross misconduct, dating back to 2008 when he was accused of attempts to improperly influence Constitutional Court Justices Bess Nkabinde and Chris Jafta to decide matters in favour of particular litigants.

Section 177 of the Constitution provides for a judge to be removed from office only if the JSC finds that the judge suffers from incapacity, is grossly incompetent, or is guilty of gross misconduct.

Lamola’s spokesperson Chrispin Phiri, confirmed to the publication stating that Hlophe would lose his benefits and pension.

Contacted for comment, Hlophe’s long-time lawyer Barnabas Xulu said that Ramaphosa acted on a process that was illegal.

“We have noted the President’s decision and we must indicate that we are awaiting the Constitutional Court to pronounce and maybe help shed some light on some of our concerns,” said Xulu.

Xulu mentioned that Hlophe’s matter was more than about his impeachment and argued that there was a pattern playing out when dealing with professionals in the country.

Despite all the allegations levelled against Hlophe that ultimately led to his demise, he maintained, throughout various processes, that he was innocent.

“In 2004 I authored a report on racism based on my experience, remember I was appointed judge in 1995. So it took me time to experience different things and to look around, and share common experiences with fellow black judges. Look at what is happening in the profession… I decided to address it because at the time I was now appointed Judge President on May 1, 2000.

“One of the things that I raised in my report was skewed briefing patterns. We live in the country where the economy is still in the hands of the very few South Africans, and its largely white South Africans and that is the fact,” explained Hlophe.

Hlophe said there was racism in the country but some people did not believe that the same racism also existed in the legal profession.

Some judges attempted to persuade him to withdraw the racism report, but, he said, he refused to withdraw it because he was convinced it was valid.

Sunday Independent