National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula says Parliament has received a report from the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) relating to Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe’s proposed impeachment.
The JSC last week Wednesday confirmed its decision to uphold the Judicial Conduct Tribunal’s findings of gross misconduct against Hlophe.
In April, the tribunal unanimously found Hlophe guilty of gross misconduct and improperly attempting to influence two Constitutional Court (ConCourt) justices.
This stemmed from a complaint lodged by 11 ConCourt judges against Hlophe more than 12 years ago, after justices Chris Jafta and Bess Nkabinde claimed he had approached them separately in their chambers to try to influence them to rule in favour of former president Jacob Zuma and French arms company, Thales, in a case relating to the validity of search and seizure operations in the arms deal investigation.
The JSC gave Hlophe and the ConCourt until 3 September to make submissions on why it should not recommend Hlophe’s suspension to President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Briefing MPs in the National Assembly Programme Committee on Thursday, Mapisa-Nqakula said she had since received a letter, which contained a report on Hlophe’s impeachment, and the matter would be referred to the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services.
“Having studied the letter, I then referred the letter to the parliamentary team, which advises us on legal matters. They have looked into the [report] and they have since come back with this advice that we refer this matter to the justice committee.
“The committee will consider the procedural aspects of the matter and report to the House. If we are happy then there will be a vote in the House and of course a removal of a judge will require two-thirds majority,” the Speaker said.
Mapisa-Nqakula said the National Assembly would send copies of both the majority and minority views, alongside the letter, to the committee.
What is the process?
In terms of section 177 of the Constitution which deals with the removal of judges, a judge can be impeached on grounds of incapacity, gross incompetence or gross misconduct.
According to the JSC Act, the report on Hlophe will be referred to the JSC to decide whether the criteria for impeachment are met.
If the commission agrees with the finding of the tribunal that Hlophe is guilty of gross misconduct, the matter will be referred to the National Assembly for a vote.
In the National Assembly, two-thirds of MPs must vote in favour of impeachment, which would result in a judge being formally removed from office by the president.
If the House does not vote in favour of impeachment, the judge could be sanctioned through punitive measures that include an order for an apology, a reprimand, counselling or training.
Should Hlophe be impeached, he will be the first judge since the advent of democracy to be removed from office.
Additional reporting by Siyanda Ndlovu