Western Cape Judge President, John Hlophe has written a letter in which he requested his recusal as one of the judges who will hear the case in which troubled Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane is challenging the constitutionality of the parliament’s impeachment rules.
Mkhwebane, who was on sabbatical leave up to the end of March, is challenging the constitutionality of the impeachment rules that parliament came up with for the removal of Chapter 9 institutions, of which the office of the Public Protector is part. In October last year, the Public Protector embarked on and lost in a bid to put a stop to parliament’s removal proceedings when her application was dismissed. In the second of her application, Mkhwebane would like to have the impeachment rules to be declared unconstitutional and therefore void.
On the other hand, Judge President Hlophe had allocated himself to hear the case together with judges Mokgoatji Dolamo and Elizabeth Baartman. However, the Democratic Alliance had, through its lawyers, sent a letter questioning the legality of the President allocating himself to the case. In their letter, the DA said, they felt that “… it is not permissible or appropriate for the Judge President to hear the matter … instructed to request that the Judge President recuse himself from this matter.” The letter from the main opposition party in South African politics went on to add that the party felt that Hlophe would not be able to bring an impartial mind to the matter at hand.
In his letter of recusal, Hlophe said that the reason for his recusal is the sentiments that are in the public domain. He said in his letter, “Perhaps I should not matter even though I am one of the judges and the DA is one of several parties. I accordingly withdraw from the matter.” In addition to this situation, the Judicial Services Commission is expected to meet in June in order to decide whether Hlophe is guilty of gross misconduct and if he should face impeachment proceedings in parliament.