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Disciplinary tribunal looms for Hlophe

Niren Tolsi

Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe will face a disciplinary tribunal - and possible impeachment if found guilty, the M&G understands.

Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe will face a disciplinary tribunal - and possible impeachment if found guilty. (Gallo)

The decision was taken after an almost three-hour meeting of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) at the Westin Grand Hotel in Cape Town on Wednesday night that ended after 8pm. While the commission itself would not comment on the decision because the relevant parties had yet to be notified, the Mail & Guardian has reliably learnt that it is set to go ahead.

Hlophe's lawyer, Barnabas Xulu, said on Thursday he could not comment on the matter as he had yet to be notified about the decision by the JSC.

The justices of the Constitutional Court had, in 2008, laid a complaint of judicial misconduct against Hlophe alleging that he had approached justices Chris Jafta and Bess Nkabinde with the intention of improperly influencing them in a matter before the court involving corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma – then ANC president and an ordinary citizen. Hlophe in turn counter-complained to the JSC that the justices had infringed his constitutional right to dignity by publishing a media statement about their decision to lodge the complaint.

With impeachment of the judge president of a provincial division a possibility the matter has proved one of the most high profile for post-apartheid South Africa – and has divided the country's legal fraternity. 

Last month, the Judicial Conduct Committee – a sub-committee of the commission – had found that Hlophe was, prima facie, guilty of impeachable gross misconduct and recommended that a tribunal be set up.

"The committee considered that this complaint, if established, will prima facie indicate gross misconduct which may lead to impeachment," the committee said in a statement at the time.

"Accordingly, the committee has recommended to the Judicial Service Commission [JSC] that a tribunal be appointed to investigate it."

The committee took into account the pronouncements of the Supreme Court of Appeal that the JSC must decide whether Hlophe, as Western Cape judge president, was guilty of gross misconduct or not.

Commission spokesperson Dumisa Ntsebeza had also confirmed earlier this week that Justice Minister Jeff Radebe had given an assurance that the regulations for such tribunals – which are to be used for misconduct cases involving judges – would be promulgated in Parliament this week.


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