The judicial services commission has postponed the decision to the 30th of July decision on whether the Western Cape judge president John Hlophe should be impeached. The spokesperson for the JSC, Doris Tshepe, confirmed to the media that the Commission, which had met in the absence of politicians, had met on Friday and had considered the gross misconduct cases against the Judge President. Tshepe added that they had, however, not come to a conclusion on whether to recommend that he be impeached in parliament.
Confirming the decision to postpone the discussion, the advocate spokesperson for the commission, Dali Mpofu, said that they had had a lot to discuss and hence the decision to defer the ruling to the 30th of next month. “We have not finished our discussions and it did not look like we would finish today,” he said at the end of the Friday meeting. The case against Justice Hlophe is that he approached Constitutional justices, Bess Nkabinde and Chris Jafta, and tried to influence their decision regarding the matter of the arms deal involving former South African president Jacob Zuma and the French company Thales. He is purported to have said to Jafta that the matter of the arms deal could have been handled better since, in his words, “those on the bench at the Constitutional Court are our last hope”.
The Judicial Conduct Tribunal, which has recommended to the JSC that Hlophe be impeached, argues that he violated the constitution by attempting to sway those on the bench to betray their oath of office. In addition, Hlophe is accused of flouting the principle that bars judges from broaching a pending matter with those that it affects.
On the other, Hlophe is contesting the charges against him and contends that the Tribunal failed to formulate a clear charge for him to answer because there is no instrument enabling provision to make contravention of section 165 of the constitution an offense. In its response, the Tribunal argued that since it was not a criminal trial, the requirement did not apply, adding that it (the Tribunal) was more concerned with ethical standards and what it called judicial probity.
The Judicial Service Commission is then faced with the decision to endorse the recommendation of the Judicial Conduct Tribunal for the impeachment of the Judge President. However, the enactment of the impeachment will then fall to the parliament, which needs to be carried by a two-thirds majority vote.