Judicial Service Commission still undecided on Hlophe tribunal

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) had not reached a decision on the long-running judicial saga involving him and the judges of the Constitutional Court after a closed-door meeting during most of Monday. Commission spokesperson advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza said the body "deferred the decision" until later in the week, possibly Wednesday, when the candidates for the vacant positions at the Western Cape High Court would also be interviewed.

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

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 had laid a counter-complaint against the judges criticising the manner in which they had announced their complaint to the JSC – stating that it impinged on his right to dignity.

In late September this year, the Judicial Conduct Committee – a subcommittee of the commission – found that Hlophe was, prima facie, guilty of impeachable gross misconduct and recommended that a tribunal be set up.

Ntsebeza also confirmed Justice Minister Jeff Radebe gave an assurance that the regulations for such tribunals – which are to be used for misconduct cases involving judges – would be promulgated in Parliament by Wednesday.

Another problem
Aside from the Hlophe decision, there is another migraine for the JSC: a recent Supreme Court of Appeal judgment found it was required to be more transparent in its decision-making by giving reasons for its decisions to recommend candidates to the president to fill judicial vacancies.

The commission had been legally challenged by the Western Cape Bar after recommending just one appointment to that province's bench following interviews in April last year, despite there being three vacancies and several adept candidates.

Judicial candidates are recommended to the president after gaining a majority from the commissioners – there are 23 commissioners, plus the premier and judge president of a division when high court interviews are conducted – after a secret ballot by the commission, and did not give reasons for its nominations.

The Supreme Court of Appeal found that as an organ of state, the commission was obliged to give reasons for its decisions to ensure accountability and transparency. This could lead to procedural changes for the commission.

Ntsebeza said the commission studied the appeal court ruling and "was fully confident we will be able to comply with its dictates", but no decision had been taken on whether to appeal the ruling. It appears likely that the commission will start giving reasons for its recommendations.

The October round of commission interviews promises to be lively, with the deputy judge president position in the KwaZulu-Natal division being contested by judges Achmat Jappie and Mjabuliseni Madondo.

Madondo faced racism allegations following a previous interview for the same position when he contended the position should be filled by an African as they had experienced a different form of racism to Indians and coloureds.

Also of interest will be the vacancies on the Western Cape High Court bench, which will see some of South Africa's sharpest legal minds – including advocates Owen Rogers, Ashton Schippers and Jeremy Gauntlett – being interviewed.

Niren Tolsi
Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi is a freelance journalist.

His areas of interest include social justice; citizen mobilisation and state violence; protest; the constitution and the constitutional court and football.


Study unpacks the ‘hidden racism’ at Stellenbosch

Students say they feel unseen and unheard at the university because of their skin colour

Workers’ R60m ‘lost’ in banks scam

An asset manager, VBS Mutual Bank and a Namibian bank have put the retirement funds of 26 000 municipal workers in South Africa at risk

‘Judge President Hlophe tried to influence allocation of judges to...

Deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath accuses Hlophe of attempting to influence her to allocate the case to judges he perceived as ‘favourably disposed’ to former president Jacob Zuma

SAA grounds flights due to low demand

SAA is working to accommodate customers on its sister airlines after it cancelled flights due to low demand

Press Releases

MTN unveils TikTok bundles

Customised MTN TikTok data bundles are available to all prepaid customers on *136*2#.

Marketers need to reinvent themselves

Marketing is an exciting discipline, offering the perfect fit for individuals who are equally interested in business, human dynamics and strategic thinking. But the...

Upskill yourself to land your dream job in 2020

If you received admission to an IIE Higher Certificate qualification, once you have graduated, you can articulate to an IIE Diploma and then IIE Bachelor's degree at IIE Rosebank College.

South Africans unsure of what to expect in 2020

Almost half (49%) of South Africans, 15 years and older, agree or strongly agree that they view 2020 with optimism.

KZN teacher educators jet off to Columbia University

A group of academics were selected as participants of the programme focused on PhD completion, mobility, supervision capacity development and the generation of high-impact research.

New-style star accretion bursts dazzle astronomers

Associate Professor James O Chibueze and Dr SP van den Heever are part of an international team of astronomers studying the G358-MM1 high-mass protostar.

2020 risk outlook: Use GRC to build resilience

GRC activities can be used profitably to develop an integrated risk picture and response, says ContinuitySA.

MTN voted best mobile network

An independent report found MTN to be the best mobile network in SA in the fourth quarter of 2019.