Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe
The Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg has dismissed Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe's multiple challenges to gross misconduct findings against him and a Judicial Service Commission (JSC) process that could lead to his impeachment.
Hlophe had been found guilty of impeachable gross misconduct for trying to sway Constitutional Court Justices Bess Nkabinde and Chris Jafta to rule in favour of then African National Congress president Jacob Zuma in his crucial 2008 bid to invalidate Scorpions search and seizure warrants. Those warrants led authorities to seize 93 000 pages of evidence that was later used in Zuma's ongoing corruption prosecution.
On Thursday, a full Bench of the High Court rejected Hlophe's argument that, rather than voting on whether he should be impeached, the National Assembly should conduct its own investigation into the allegations of misconduct.
It said this argument was legally unsound, as it was the Judicial Service Commission that was legally empowered to investigate the conduct of judges accused of wrongdoing - not Parliament.
Among other things, the full Bench also rejected Hlophe's argument that he was unaware that it was improper for judges who were not involved in a particular case to express a view on that case, when not invited to so, to the judges dealing with it.
Hlophe has consistently maintained that his discussions with Jafta and Nkabinde were innocent academic discussions, despite evidence that he stated that there was "no case" against Zuma and that he was being "persecuted", just as Hlophe had been persecuted.
The full Bench also rejected Hlophe's argument that certain members of the JSC, including Western Cape Premier Alan Winde, Gauteng Judge President Dunstan Mlambo and Justice Sisi Khampepe, were conflicted and should not have been allowed to vote on the gross misconduct findings made against him.
It found that these challenges were "unsustainable".