Molefe Seeletsa

Compiled by Molefe Seeletsa

Digital Journalist

‘I’m not the only one who remarked about Zuma’: Hlophe says political interference behind impeachment

The judge was found guilty of gross misconduct by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe says he is saddened by the possibility of being removed from the bench, stating his belief that such an outcome aligned with the desire of his critics.

Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services recently resolved to recommend Hlophe’s removal.

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) found Hlophe guilty of gross misconduct and was subsequently suspended by President Cyril Ramaphosa in December 2022.

The National Assembly is expected to convene a special sitting in January next year to vote on the judge’s impeachment.

‘Turns and twists’

In an interview with eNCA on Wednesday, Hlophe revealed that Parliament failed to inform him of the decision taken to recommended his removal from the bench.

“All I know is what I have read in the newspapers. It comes as no surprise because the matter has a history, it has turns and twists,” he told eNCA in an interview on Wednesday.

The judge clarified that the assertion labeling him as “the face of judicial impropriety” was more about public perception rather than factual evidence.

“That’s what the detractors wanted,” he said in reference to retired Constitutional Court (ConCourt) judge Johann Kriegler and the Democratic Alliance (DA).

“[Kriegler] is very vociferous, anything to do with Hlophe he is always there… he is one of the detractors. The other detractors, obviously, were politicians. I have been openly called by the Democratic Alliance’s Helen Zille an ANC deployee [but] I am a sitting judge what an insult. So there was political interference but also Kriegler has always been vociferous,” he said.

ALSO READ: Judges Hlophe and Motata: Removal on track

He expressed his dismay at the prospect of facing impeachment for “merely making a remark”.

“I’m not the only one who remarked about the [Jacob] Zuma matter. It was very topical and if one looks at the evidence of Judge [Chris] Jafta before the JSC, he says even the judges, advocates, everyone was talking about the Zuma matter and the only person who is charged is me. It would be sad to leave the bench, where I have made a contribution in my view, under such a cloud.”

In 2021, the JSC had found Hlophe had acted improperly when he attempted to sway two ConCourt justices, Jafta and Bess Nkabinde, in favour of former president Jacob Zuma in his 2008 bid to overturn warrants used to seize 93 000 pages of corruption trial evidence against him.

According to Jafta, Hlophe told him that the cases involving Zuma needed to be looked at “properly” because the judge believed the former president was being persecuted.

Jafta testified before the JSC that it was during this discussion that Hlophe remarked the phrase  “sesithembele kinina” (we pin our hopes on you) to him.

Another tribunal

Meanwhile, Hlophe is also facing another Judicial Conduct Tribunal for gross misconduct in a separate matter involving Deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath.

This comes after the appeal committee of the Judicial Conduct Committee (JCC) concluded that there existed a prima facie case of misconduct against Hlophe and Goliath, according to TimesLIVE.

Consequently, the the committee recommended that both individuals be subjected to a tribunal for further investigation, but Goliath was cleared by the JSC.

Goliath had laid a gross misconduct claim against Hlophe with the JSC in January 2020.

READ MORE: John Hlophe misconduct saga several years from reaching a conclusion

The Deputy Judge President had alleged, among other things, that Hlophe assaulted Judge Mushtak Parker, used abusive language towards her and delegated duties meant for her position to his former wife, Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe, who was the Deputy Judge President’s junior.

Hlophe, in return, filed a counter-complaint against Goliath which included allegations of racism and gross incompetence.

Former Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng subsequently recommended to the JCC in July 2020 that a tribunal be established to investigate allegations against Hlophe and Goliath.

Mogoeng’s decision was, thereafter, upheld by the appeals committee in September 2022.

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