Opposition parties have welcomed the findings of the Judicial Conduct Tribunal against Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe
OPPOSITION parties have welcomed the decision by the Judicial Conduct Tribunal that Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe was guilty of “gross misconduct” when he allegedly tried to influence two chief justices.
This was in the corruption case involving former South African president Jacob Zuma and French Arms company Thint.
On Saturday the tribunal found that Hlophe had threatened the impartiality, dignity and public confidence in the judicial system.
The DA’s Glynnis Breytenbach said she welcomed the decision. “Hlophe’s behaviour through the years have decimated the reputation of the Western Cape Division of the High Court. He is a blight on the judiciary, and it is about time he suffered the most serious consequences of his actions,” she said.
Breytenbach said Parliament should start deliberating on his removal.
Inkatha Freedom Party spokesperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa also welcomed the decision and said this showed the tribunal’s ability to separate fact from fiction. He believed the tribunal was quite thorough and ensured that the integrity of the judiciary remained intact.
Hlengwa felt Hlophe should accept the findings against him and that the findings should be implemented. He lamented that the matter had taken so long to resolve.
It has been reported that in 2008 Hlophe tried to influence Constitutional Court judges Justices Chris Jafta and Bess Nkabinde on matters that dealt with Zuma and Thint, where Zuma was accused of taking bribes.
Providing background on the matter, the office of the tribunal said that on May 30, 2008, the justices filed complaints against Hlophe for trying to influence the apex court’s judgment on the matter.
Hlophe said the complaint by the justices was unconstitutional as a public statement was made before filing a proper complaint with the Judicial Services Commission. He argued that by filing the complaint before they got to hear his side of the matter, they had violated his right to dignity, privacy and procedural fairness, among issues.
Political analyst Professor Boitumelo Senokoane said there was nothing surprising about the decision. “The law is designed in a way that everyone should be kept accountable … that’s inclusive of the judges. We know that Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng is facing a similar fate even though issues are not the same. Judge Hlophe has an option to appeal,” he said.
Non-profit organisation Freedom Under Law welcomed the decision. Chairperson Johann Kriegler said: “The report not only makes plain and explains what the tribunal concluded Judge Hlophe had done, but sets a valuable example for the guidance of everyone concerned with judicial integrity.
“In condemning this conduct in ringing and unambiguous language, the tribunal has finally put an end to 13 years of denial, obfuscation and delay. This fully endorses the complaint laid by the justices of the Constitutional Court in 2008 and vindicates their integrity. Judge Hlophe’s conduct in privately calling on two justices and trying to influence their judgment in cases involving Mr Jacob Zuma was grossly improper. So, too, was his vilification of Chief Justice Langa and Deputy Chief Justice Moseneke.”
Judge Hlophe’s lawyer Barnabas Xulu, who usually speaks on his behalf, had not responded to calls seeking comment by the time of publication.