News / South Africa / Politics

Thapelo Lekabe
Digital Journalist
3 minute read
7 Oct 2021
1:00 pm

‘King of flip-flopping’? Malema under fire over about-turn on John Hlophe

Thapelo Lekabe

The firebrand leader now wants the controversial jurist to become the next chief justice.

The EFF won’t explain its leader Julius Malema’s flip-flopping on the Red Berets’ support for Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe.

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema has once again been accused of flip-flopping when it comes to his stance on political matters.

This time Malema is being accused of changing his views on embattled Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe after he recently heaped praise on him, despite his previous views about Hlophe being part of the “rotten potatoes” in South Africa’s judiciary.

The firebrand has come under scrutiny from social media users who have pointed out his contradictions on Hlophe, with some tweeps even referring to him as a “serial flip-flopper”, a populist and the “king of flip-flopping”.

This followed Malema’s interview with SABC News on Tuesday, where he threw his party’s support behind Hlophe’s nomination to replace Mogoeng Mogoeng as South Africa’s next chief justice. Hlophe’s name is among eight candidates nominated to head up the Constitutional Court (ConCourt).

ALSO READ: Malema wants impeachment-facing Hlophe as chief justice, says he’s the best

Despite Hlophe facing a pending parliamentary impeachment for alleged misconduct, Malema told the public broadcaster the jurist was more than qualified for the top job.

He said Hlophe was a man of “integrity and honour”. But this was a complete departure from his previous views a few years ago that the judge posed a threat to the integrity of South Africa’s judiciary.

Malema told SABC News: “I think in that list [of candidates], he is highly qualified, the best legal brain, [and] a man of integrity and honour. This thing that they are talking about judge Hlophe, it’s nonsense.”

Hlophe ‘not captured’ by white capital

The EFF leader said talking about court cases was a general practice in the judiciary, and Hlophe did nothing wrong by allegedly trying to improperly influence ConCourt justices to rule in favour of former president Jacob Zuma in a 2008 case.

“Hlophe is a man of integrity, highly qualified [and] presided over the most difficult division of the judiciary in the Western Cape. It is not only the most difficult division, but it is also the most racist with a racist government, yet the man survived.

“They hate him for that because Hlophe doesn’t play golf at Leopard Creek [Country Club] in Mpumalanga where all judges go and play golf. Hlophe is not captured by the white economic capital.”

Since the interview with Malema was aired, Twitter users have been quick to lay bare his contradictions over the years, with a video of him criticising Hlophe at a press conference making the rounds online.

A threat to the judiciary

During that media briefing, he vowed the EFF would remove Hlophe from the bench because he was a threat to the judiciary.

Malema said: “He is a threat to judicial integrity. In the Western Cape, that judge president [John] Hlophe… He’s the most worrying thing about our judiciary.

“But you will always have those rotten potatoes who want to spoil the whole bag. It is the EFF’s job to remove these rotten potatoes. So, we will do that even in the judiciary.”

Twitter users have slammed the EFF commander-in-chief for his contradictions, with some questioning the party’s supporters’ continued backing even though Malema has been inconsistent on issues.

Attempts to get comment from the EFF on what prompted Malema’s sudden changed of heart were unsuccessful.

Here’s what tweeps had to say: