Home South African Mixed reaction to election of John Hlophe to JSC

Mixed reaction to election of John Hlophe to JSC

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There has been a mixed reaction to the decision by the National Assembly to elect impeached judge John Hlophe, of the MK Party, to represent the 7th Parliament on the Judicial Service Commission.

MK Party parliamentary leader John Hlophe will represent the National Assembly on the Judicial Service Commission. Pictufre: Armand Hough, Independent Newspapers

FOLLOWING the National Assembly’s vote on members of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and the Magistrates Commission, Judges Matter has slammed the appointment of uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) Party member and impeached former Western Cape judge president John Hlophe.

Hlophe, along with Glynnis Breytenbach (DA), Molapi Lekganyane (ANC) and Julius Malema (EFF), was designated as a representative of the 7th Parliament on the Judicial Service Commission

Judges Matter, the DA and other parties in the National Assembly had been opposed to the inclusion of Hlophe to the JSC following his recent impeachment.

However, the EFF, ATM and Al Jama-ah voted in favour of Hlophe’s inclusion.

On Tuesday, following the appointment, Judges Matter said in a statement that it was disappointed by the National Assembly’s decision.

“We believe it undermines the credibility of these commissions and the integrity of the judiciary. Judges Matter is disappointed by the National Assembly’s decision to designate as members of the Judicial Service Commission and Magistrates Commission MPs who have previously been found guilty of misconduct or have been criticised by the courts for ethical breaches, such as John Hlophe and Faith Muthambi,” it said.

The organisation said Parliament’s decision is also contrary to the spirit, purport and objects of the Constitution.

“This decision is plainly irrational in relation to the injunction by Section 165(4) of the Constitution, which requires that Parliament takes measures to protect the independence and dignity of the courts,” Judges Matter researcher Mbekezeli Benjamin added.

According to Benjamin, the decision serves also as “a cruel irony” to the future of the JSC and what it stands for.

“Judges Matter reiterates our call for a written code of conduct for all commissioners, with a mechanism to recall those commissioners who do not uphold the terms of the code. Judges and the judgments they have made have increasingly become more central to politics in South Africa. Judges Matter focuses on the appointments process for judges providing insight into the JSC structure and processes,” said Benjamin.

However, the EFF, through its deputy president Floyd Shivambu, in voting for Hlophe’s inclusion, said any party representative elected to represent the interests of their party in the National Assembly and anywhere else should be allowed to fulfil their mandate.

“Speaker of the National Assembly, we as the EFF fully support the appointment of John Hlophe’s as a representative of South Africa’s 7th Parliament in the Judicial Service Commission,” Shivambu said.

“As a matter of principle, anyone who is eligible to become a member of Parliament, as per Section 47 of the Constitution can be delegated to whatever responsibility that all members of Parliament are eligible for,” Shivambu said.

Breytenbach, reacting to Hlophe’s designation, said the DA, along with the FF+ and the ACDP, have recorded their objections to Hlophe serving on the JSC.

“The DA objects to the designation of John Hlophe to serve on the JSC as the National Assembly representative on this body. The EFF and MK wish to tear down the independent judiciary, which the DA works to protect,” she said.

Breytenbach added that while it is the prerogative of political parties to nominate persons to serve on the JSC, she and the DA could not condone that a person is allowed to serve on the same body that found him “guilty of gross misconduct while he was a judge, resulting in his impeachment”.

“In this context, it would be irrational for the National Assembly to have the same person impeached, representing the National Assembly on the JSC. This is a clear conflict of interest and an attempt to undermine the independence of the judiciary of South Africa. The National Assembly is bound to protect and assist the judiciary’s independence, integrity and dignity, which the DA does not take lightly,” Breytenbach said.

“Persons elected to represent the National Assembly on the JSC must hold such values, which cannot be said for Hlophe. We risk undermining the JSC processes for the election of judges and their investigations into judges’ conduct, endangering the rule of law in South Africa and the proper functioning of the judiciary,” she said.

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