Complaints against Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe’s wife, Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe, have been dismissed after the Judicial Conduct Committee (JCC) found that there was not enough evidence to warrant a formal investigation by a tribunal.
Deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath accused Hlophe of gross misconduct and claimed in her allegations that there was a continuous and sustained attack on her dignity, that he had withdrawn her from duties she used to perform in her capacity as his deputy, that he had insulted her and used derogatory terms when he referred to her, and that he, generally, made her work environment unbearable.
Hlophe is also accused of assaulting his colleague, Judge Mushtak Parker.
In addition, Goliath complained that Salie-Hlophe was improperly involved in the management of the Western Cape division, and claimed she enjoyed preferential treatment and made unwarranted complaints against her colleagues to her husband.
“In relation to Judge Salie-Hlophe, the allegations were that she had assumed ‘enormous power’ in the division, resulting in some of the judges being afraid of her and being disinclined to raise openly any issues relating to her; that she was (improperly) participating in the management of the court, the allocation of cases and appointment of acting judges; that she chose which judges she would sit with on appeals,
“and that her (unwarranted) complaints about certain judges to the JP (judge president) had resulted in strained relationships between the JP and the judges concerned and the assault referred to in the preceding paragraph,” the JCC’s Judge Nambitha Dambuza said in her findings.
Goliath also referenced complaints that Salie-Hlophe made against several other judges.
According to the JCC, these are some of the instances in which Goliath alleged Salie-Hlophe complained to the JP about her colleagues:
She complained that Judge André le Grange refused to allocate a specifically requested parking bay to her. She complained that Judge Pat Gamble excluded her from a conversation during lunch. She complained about Judge Derek Wille’s alleged “inappropriate” conduct towards her, which resulted in successive circuit court allocations as punishment.
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According to Goliath, other judges also complained that Salie-Hlophe was allocated less Friday appeals than them. She would not disclose which judges complained, so the JCC could not follow up.
However, the JCC found that apart from the assault matter, the allegations about Salie-Hlophe’s complaints and the negative effect thereof, hit a blank wall.
“The fundamental problems therewith were the absence of evidence regarding the content of the report and the fact that the implicated judges either did not recall the incidents to which the alleged complaints related, or were not keen on participating in these proceedings,” the JCC said.
When the JCC contacted the judges, many could not remember the incidents.
Judge Gamble could not recall the incident where he allegedly excluded Salie-Hlophe from a conversation.Judge Wille did not want to respond to the allegations in view of his longstanding friendship with the judge president. Judge Le Grange confirmed that his relationship with Hlophe had deteriorated but could not recall an issue about a parking bay.
“In the end, the only conclusion I can make in this regard is that the relationship between the JP and some of the judges is strained. There may be rumblings of dissatisfaction about aspects of management of the division. There may also be an environment of fear and apprehension among the judges of the division or some of them,” Dambuza found.
“But I am unable to find that these emanate from misconduct on the part of Judge Salie-Hlophe. And, from the evidence given by the judges that were allegedly the victims of Judge Salie Hlophe’s conduct, I am not persuaded that a formal (oral) hearing would yield more concrete evidence and contribute to the determination of the merits of the DJP’s complaint against Judge Salie-Hlophe.”
The JCC also found that even if it were true that Judge Salie-Hlophe received preferential treatment, her enjoyment thereof could not constitute misconduct on her part.
The committee did, however, recommend that the allegations made about Goliath in media statements, together with the allegations that she attempted to influence Salie-Hlophe to lay false criminal charges against Hlophe; encouraged Salie-Hlophe to divorce Hlophe; and referred to Hlophe as an “old black man”, be investigated by a tribunal.
“If indeed the DJP made the alleged statements, particularly the act of urging Judge Salie-Hlophe to lay false criminal charges against the JP, it seems to me that that would prima facie be impeachable gross misconduct.
“Similarly, if Judge Salie-Hlophe falsely accused the DJP of having said these things, [t]hat too would be impeachable gross misconduct. These aspects of the complaint, therefore, fall to be investigated by a tribunal,” Dambuza said.