Judge President Hlophe has all but captured the WC High Court – DA calls for his immediate suspension
22 January 2020
The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls for the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to immediately place Judge President of the Western Cape High Court, John Hlophe, on suspension following the latest explosive allegations of gross misconduct, nepotism and abuse of power. These allegations present a threat to the credibility and independence of the judiciary and must be treated with the seriousness they deserve.
We believe there is sufficient prima facie evidence to warrant a suspension pending an investigation into this very serious matter. This fresh slew of allegations must be swiftly investigated in order to restore decorum, respect and the rule of law to the Western Cape High Court.
The latest complaint laid against Hlophe by his deputy, Deputy Judge President (DJP) Patricia Goliath, paints a grim picture of a court division that has all but been captured by Hlophe and his wife, Judge GayaatSalie-Hlophe. The allegations against Hlophe listed in DJP Goliath’s complaint to the Judicial Services Commission include:
Allegations of nepotism and preferential treatment of his wife, Judge Salie-Hlophe;
A climate of fear and intimidation, including Hlophe both verbally and physically abusing colleagues;
Hlophe unilaterally changing court rules and best practice without any consultation in order to “advance his own narrow personal agenda”;
Hlophe unilaterally deciding to dissolve the position of Deputy Judge President;
Undue interference in the appointment of acting judges;
Undue interference in the assignment of judges to particular cases in a bid to affect the findings. This includes:
Appointing his wife, a junior judge, to preside over the high-profile murder trial of Jason Rohde;
Attempting to influence the appointment of judges to the 2015 intergovernmental nuclear deal case, in an effort to manipulate the outcomes to favour the Zuma-led administration;
Hlophe has a long and tainted history of alleged misconduct, including the infamous 2008 complaint of gross misconduct against him by Constitutional Court judges after he allegedly approached several judges in an attempt to improperly influence the court to reach decisions favourable to former president Jacob Zuma. 12 years later, Hlophe has not been held accountable and continues at the helm of the Western Cape High Court where he wields influence for political gain.
The DA has consistently held the view that Hlophe’s influencing of the appointment of judges to politically sensitive cases before the WC High Court is no coincidence. Rather, this interference is deliberate in order to influence the outcome of such cases. On several occasions the Western Cape Government has been on the wrong end of legally questionable judgements, only later to have such judgements overturned on appeal to a higher court.
Our courts remain the guardians of the Constitution and the rule of law, and a bulwark against abuse of power by any individual. An independent judiciary underpins a capable democratic state and when a court’s independence is brought into question, such allegations must be dealt with swiftly and decisively. We have seen the damage State Capture has inflicted on our institutions of state. It is therefore vital that we prevent the same from occurring in the judiciary. Indeed, we can only build a prosperous nation when all arms of government are strengthened and do their work without fear or favour.
Issued by John Steenhuisen,Leader of the Democratic Alliance, 22 January 2020