Judicial board not open enough

When the Judicial Service Commission dealt with the ACDP's complaint against Cape Judge President John Hlophe, it recommended that specific guidelines be furnished as to when judges can do extra-judicial remunerated work. The guidelines and further provisions relating to the disclosure of judges' financial interests are contained in the Judicial Service Commission Amendment Bill.

When the Judicial Service Commission dealt with the ACDP's complaint against Cape Judge President John Hlophe, it recommended that specific guidelines be furnished as to when judges can do extra-judicial remunerated work. The guidelines and further provisions relating to the disclosure of judges' financial interests are contained in the Judicial Service Commission Amendment Bill.

The Cape Bar Council said last week that "it is acutely conscious that the Constitution and national legislation do not afford the JSC or any other disciplinary body powers of sanction over superior court judges short of recommending impeachment".

This shortcoming affects the JSC's ability to fulfil the role the public expects it to regarding alleged judicial misconduct or incompetence, which, although serious, do not warrant impeachment.

As the Bill is close to being finalised and in view of the public outcry about the JSC decision on Hlophe, it is imperative the bill is passed before Parliament rises this year.

The JSC should have shown greater transparency, particularly after its unanimous finding that Hlope's explanations about his conduct were "unsatisfactory in some regards".

Steve Swart, ACDP member of justice and constitutional development portfolio committee, Parliament

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