Judges Hlophe and Motata: Removal on track
The last time a judge was impeached in SA was in 1910. These two were found guilty of gross misconduct by the Judicial Service Commission.
Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark
First time in the history of democratic South Africa, the parliamentary portfolio committee on justice and correctional (PPJC) services recommended the National Assembly to impeach Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe and retired Gauteng judge Nkola Motata.
The last time a judge was impeached in SA was in 1910. The PPJC resolved to recommend the removal of both judges, who were found guilty of gross misconduct by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).
According to the PPJC, having considered the documentation and “applied its mind through deliberations”, the committee found no merit in the arguments placed before it by Motata or Hlope and no extenuating circumstances which would support a decision on its part not to recommend that the National Assembly resolve they be removed.
The recommendation for Hlophe’s removal came after the JSC found he had acted improperly when he attempted to sway two Constitutional Court justices 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.
The National Assembly now has to consider the committee’s report and vote on the judges’ impeachment. Prof Stephen Tuson of Wits University School of Law said the findings were long overdue. According to Tuson, this was a shocking and shameful thing to happen.
“It brings the judiciary into disrepute,” he said. “The judiciary are expected to be held to the highest standards and this kind of misconduct is shameful not only for the individuals involved, but also for the country and for the judiciary.”
In January 2007, Motata crashed his car into the wall of Hurlingham homeowner, Richard Baird. Baird said because of this ongoing case, he lost everything and even the ability to earn an income.
“When you lose your reputation and your ability to earn an income and you lose family members trusting you, it is absolutely devastating. And there has to be accountability for that,” he said.
Baird said now the rule of law and constitutionality were being honoured. “And if that means that he means that he foregoes benefits, well that’s what he brought upon himself,” Baird said.
“He chose that behaviour. You can make choices, but you’re not free to choose the consequences of all of those choices.
“He is going to face those consequences now.”
Baird said he was still in a situation where Motata had not even offered to pay for the damages he caused in 2007.
“I have had to cover those costs. I have ended up losing my house, my farm, my car, my wife, the whole lot. There have been severe damages,” he said.
“So, there’s no closure until I’ve been put back in the position, not only that I was in, but moving forward 17 years to the position I should have been in now.”