'JSC processes are opaque' – Casac calls for Hlophes vs Goliath complaint to be prioritised

2020-02-05 14:31
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) (Mary-Ann Palmer)

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The Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) wants a scathing complaint lodged against the head of the Western Cape High Court Judge President John Hlophe, to be transparent and prioritised.

Multiple legal bodies, including the General Council of the Bar, its Cape division and the Legal Practice Council, have called for the matter to be expedited to restore confidence in the public's eye.

READ | Advocates' body wants Judge President Hlophe and Judge Salie-Hlophe to take special leave

According to Casac, the Judicial Service Commission's (JSC) discontentment with what it called "unsolicited guidance" on how to deal with the gross misconduct complaint against Hlophe and Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe, should be reconsidered.

If not, it infringes on the values and principles of the Constitution relating to responsiveness and openness, Casac executive secretary Lawson Naidoo said on Wednesday.

"It sets a dangerous precedent of evading accountability," Naidoo said in a statement.

COLUMN | Adriaan Basson: Mogoeng must lead in the Hlophe morass

Casac urged Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo to prioritise the gross misconduct complaint against Hlophe and Salie-Hlophe, arguing that its seriousness demands urgent investigation and resolution.

"The processes followed by the Judicial Service Commission, although outlined in the Judicial Service Commission Act, are opaque," he said.

"Precedent has taught us that the commission has relied on obfuscation and delay, kicking the can down the road, rather than discharging its constitutional mandate to investigate complaints against judicial officers expeditiously."

'Demands on his time'

READ | We always adjudicate with impartiality - Judges assure public amid Goliath vs Hlophe battle

The JSC after being "inundated" with requests for updates said the complaint would be dealt with by a statuary body chaired by Zondo and other senior judges of the superior courts.

Naidoo acknowledged the "demands on his time" with the deputy chief justice heading the commission of inquiry into state capture, but called for the complaint to be prioritised.

"Any delays will only exacerbate concerns that the JSC is lackadaisical in dealing with complaints. We also call upon [Western Cape Deputy Judge President Patricia] Goliath, Hlophe and Salie-Hlophe to request to be placed on special leave pending the outcome of this process," Naidoo said.

"The JSC Act only allows the Judicial Conduct Tribunal - if and when the matter reaches it - to recommend to the President that they be placed under suspension. It is in the interests of fairness and justice that they recuse themselves immediately so as to also preserve the integrity of the judiciary, and in particular the Western Cape Division of the High Court."

The complaint, lodged by Hlophe's deputy, Goliath, contains allegations of verbal abuse, victimisation, preferential treatment and physical assault. It alleged Judge President Hlophe and Judge Salie-Hlophe had committed "gross misconduct" and compromised the functions of the highest court in the province.

Denying there was any merit to the complaint, the two dismissed it as containing gossip, rumours and information "obtained from the grapevine".

Their lawyer, Barnabas Xulu, also indicated that they are considering a counter-complaint and a defamation lawsuit against Goliath.

He said Hlophe would respond in detail at the appropriate time to the correct forum.

Read more on:    casac  |  john hlope  |  judiciary
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