By Reon Janse van Rensburg
As far back as 2008, judges of the Constitutional Court lodged a complaint with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) that Judge John Hlope had approached Justice Bess Nkabinde and Justice Chris Jafta and attempted to improperly influence them in a pending case against Jacob Zuma and the company Thint.
The Judicial Conduct Tribunal made short shrift of Judge Hlope’s attempt to accuse two justices of the Constitutional Court of perjury, and recommended that he be charged with gross misconduct.
The tribunal, which consisted of Judge Joop Labuschagne, Judge Tati Makgoka and lawyer Nishani Pather, recently released its report.
The tribunal found that Hlope had breached section 165 of the Constitution in that he improperly attempted to influence the two justices of the Constitutional Court to violate their oaths of office.
It was also found that Hlope’s conduct seriously threatened the impartiality, independence, efficiency and dignity of the Constitutional Court and that his actions also adversely affected the public’s confidence in the legal system.
This was not the only controversial incident in which Hlope was involved. The Deputy Judge-President of the Western Cape, Patricia Goliath, mentioned that Hlope tried to influence the appointment of judges in 2015 in a case in which Jacob Zuma was also involved.
Goliath accused Hlope of interfering in the Earthlife Africa matter in 2015, in which the government’s nuclear procurement processes were declared unlawful and set aside.
In 2020, after a prolonged public dispute with Goliath in which she had accused him of gross misconduct, Hlope requested a judicial commission of inquiry after the JSC compiled a report on an investigation into an alleged conspiracy to assassinate Goliath.
Despite the Judicial Conduct Tribunal ruling, the Judicial Service Commission has confirmed that Hlope is expected to participate in interviews for the appointment of judges to serve in the Western Cape division of the High Court.
Solidarity’s Law Guild is extremely disappointed to learn this news and is strongly of the opinion that Hlope is not fit to be a judge. The Law Guild is also concerned about his position in the legal system and the effect it has on the legal system. The legal system is supposed to command respect and trust among South African citizens and should not be mentioned in the same breath as misconduct and corruption. Solidarity’s Law Guild is of the opinion that urgent steps must be taken to prevent further damage so that the integrity of the legal system can be restored.
Judicial conduct tribunal finds judge Hlope guilty of gross misconduct – https://ewn.co.za/2021/04/11/judicial-conduct-tribunal-finds-judge-hlophe-guilty-of-gross-misconduct
Hlophe to participate in interviews for Western Cape judges – https://citizen.co.za/news/south-africa/courts/2476852/hlophe-to-participate-in-interviews-for-western-cape-judges/
Judicial Conduct Tribunal recommends impeachment of John Hlope for gross misconduct – https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2021-04-11-judicial-conduct-tribunal-recommends-impeachment-of-john-hlophe-for-gross-misconduct/