The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has recommended the suspension of Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe.
Following deliberations in a meeting on Monday, the JSC has advised President Cyril Ramaphosa to suspend Hlophe.
“At its meeting on Monday, the JSC constituted without members designated by the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces [NCOP], deliberated and resolved to advise the President to suspend Judge President Hlophe in terms of section 177 (3) of the Constitution.
“This is following the decision of the JSC on 25 August 2021 made in terms of section 20 (3) of the Judicial Service Commission Act 9 of 1994 that Judge President Hlophe is guilty of gross misconduct,” the commission said in a statement on Monday night.
While Hlophe wanted the matter to go back to the JSC, the judge had also asked the high court to order parliament to conduct its own investigation into the allegations of misconduct rather than vote on his impeachment.
However, this was also dismissed by the high court.
Hlophe’s lawyer Barnabas Xulu has indicated that the ruling will be appealed.
This matter stems from the JSC’s August 2021 findings.
At the time, the JSC found that Hlophe had improperly tried to cajole two Constitutional Court (ConCourt) justices to violate their oaths of office by ruling in favour of former president Jacob Zuma.
The matter related to the validity of searches during the arms deal investigation of Zuma and French arms company Thales’ local subsidiary, Thint, in 2008.
The commission concluded that Hlophe was guilty of gross misconduct based on the Judicial Conduct Tribunal’s findings.
The JSC’s report was sent to the National Assembly which then referred the matter to the committee on justice.
The report was referred to the committee by National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula so they could consider the procedural aspects of the impeachment and report back to the House once done.
Hlophe’s impeachment process has to be in line with section 177 of the Constitution, which governs the removal of a judge.
In the National Assembly, two-thirds of MPs must vote in favour of Hlophe’s impeachment, which would result in the judge being formally removed from office by Ramaphosa.
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.