Call to immediately suspend Judge President Hlophe amid gross misconduct claims

2020-01-22 19:31
Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe. (Mary-Ann Palmer, Media24, City Press, file)

Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe. (Mary-Ann Palmer, Media24, City Press, file)

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The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) should immediately place Western Cape High Court Judge President John Hlophe on suspension following allegations of gross misconduct, nepotism and abuse of power, the DA said on Wednesday.

"These allegations present a threat to the credibility and independence of the judiciary and must be treated with the seriousness they deserve," party leader John Steenhuisen said in a statement.

'Fresh slew of allegations'

"We believe there is sufficient prima facie evidence to warrant a suspension pending an investigation into this very serious matter. This fresh slew of allegations must be swiftly investigated in order to restore decorum, respect and the rule of law to the Western Cape High Court."

News24 on Tuesday reported on a blistering official complaint lodged by Deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath to the JSC alleging "gross misconduct" by Judge Hlophe and Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe, which Judge Goliath charges compromises the proper functioning of the Western Cape High Court.

Attorney Barnabas Xulu, however, on behalf of judges Hlophe and Salie-Hlophe, said the complaint contained gossip, rumours and information "obtained from the grapevine", adding it brought disrepute to the court.

Judge Goliath, in her 14-page affidavit to the JSC, charged she occupied the deputy judge president post "only in name".

She said a climate of fear and intimidation prevailed in the high court, claiming that she was operating in an "unsafe, unhealthy and oppressive working environment".

Requesting urgent intervention to "enable me to fulfil my constitutional role as deputy judge president", Goliath said her "present plight, especially as a woman, is untenable".

'Grim picture of court division'

The complaint, among others, accuses Judge Hlophe of preferential treatment of Salie-Hlophe, assaulting and verbally abusing two judges and attempting to influence the appointment of judges perceived as "favourably disposed" to former president Jacob Zuma to preside over the so-called Earthlife Africa case involving the nuclear deal.

Steenhuisen said the complaint painted a "grim picture of a court division that has all but been captured" by the judge president and his wife.

"Hlophe has a long and tainted history of alleged misconduct, including the infamous 2008 complaint of gross misconduct against him by Constitutional Court judges after he allegedly approached several judges in an attempt to improperly influence the court to reach decisions favourable to Zuma.

READ: Goliath vs Hlophe: Deputy claims Cape Judge President wanted judges ‘favourably disposed’ to Zuma on nuclear deal case

"Twelve years later, Hlophe has not been held accountable and continues at the helm of the Western Cape High Court where he wields influence for political gain."

Steenhuisen said the party had consistently held the view that Hlophe's "influencing of the appointment of judges to politically sensitive cases before the WC High Court is no coincidence".

"Rather, this interference is deliberate in order to influence the outcome of such cases. On several occasions, the Western Cape government has been on the wrong end of legally questionable judgments, only later to have such judgments overturned on appeal to a higher court," he said.

'A bulwark against abuse of power'

"Our courts remain the guardians of the Constitution and the rule of law, and a bulwark against abuse of power by any individual. An independent judiciary underpins a capable democratic state and when a court's independence is brought into question, such allegations must be dealt with swiftly and decisively.

"We have seen the damage State Capture has inflicted on our institutions of state. It is therefore vital that we prevent the same from occurring in the judiciary. Indeed, we can only build a prosperous nation when all arms of government are strengthened and do their work without fear or favour."

- Compiled by Tammy Petersen

Read more on:    da  |  john hlophe  |  patricia goliath  |  gayaat salie-hlophe  |  cape town  |  courts

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