The Democratic Alliance (DA) notes Cape Judge President John Hlophe’s statements in an affidavit submitted to the Judicial Conduct Commission (JSC) where he reportedly accuses the DA (as well as the Cape Town Bar Association and also former judge Johann Kriegler) of “judging” him.
His statements suggest the Judge President believes that he is being criticised unfairly.
The DA wants to make it clear that our views and assessment of his conduct are guided by our respect for the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary. These are among the most fundamental and central values enshrined in the Constitution.
For many years, Judge Hlophe has escaped accountability for the myriad of allegations that have been leveled against him and as a consequence, he continues to sit at the helm of the Western Cape High Court where he wields influence for political gain.
The DA holds the view that no one – not even, and especially, the Judge President — should be above the law.
We also reiterate our call for Judge Hlophe to be suspended pending the outcome of the investigation into this matter.
The serious allegations against a Judge President not only present a threat to the credibility and independence of the judiciary but also diminishes public confidence in the courts, if not dealt with swiftly.
The latest complaint laid against Judge Hlophe by his deputy, Deputy Judge President (DJP) Patricia Goliath, serves above all to highlight an already grim picture of a court division that has all but been captured by Hlophe and his wife, Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe. The allegations against Hlophe listed in DJP Goliath’s complaint to the Judicial Services Commission include:
- Allegations of nepotism;
- 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 and in the assignment of judges to particular cases in a bid to affect the findings.
That these allegations must be investigated should be clear to everyone who holds dear the integrity and independence of the judiciary. Similarly, anyone holding dear the integrity and independence of the judiciary would know that this can only happen in the temporary absence from office of JP Hlope.
The DA will not remain silent when the independence of the judiciary is brought into question. 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.