Western Cape judge 'should have told police' about alleged assault by Hlophe

Chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng says he told Western Cape deputy judge president Patricia Goliath that he does not have the authority to resolve challenges relating to judge president John Hlophe's conduct.
Chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng says he told Western Cape deputy judge president Patricia Goliath that he does not have the authority to resolve challenges relating to judge president John Hlophe's conduct.
Image: Sebabatso Mosamo/Sunday Times

Chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng says he told Western Cape deputy judge president Patricia Goliath in a meeting that he could not use his authority to resolve the challenges relating to judge president John Hlophe's alleged conduct.

According to a statement released by the office of the chief justice, Goliath had requested a meeting with Mogoeng in October 2019, in which she told him that her relationship with Hlophe had become difficult.

In February, Goliath accused Hlophe, and his wife, judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe, of gross misconduct.

In her complaint Goliath said the couple was running the court like a fiefdom.

In her meeting with the chief justice last year, Goliath said Hlophe had allegedly assaulted another judge.

“Although she said nothing about her intention to lodge a complaint against the judge president concerning their relationship, she however indicated that the judge who was allegedly assaulted by the judge president was thinking about doing so.

“She also informed the chief justice that the alleged victim was uncertain about the appropriateness of reporting the alleged assault to the police and the Judicial Conduct Committee. This was so, she said, because the alleged victim thought the chief justice would view reporting the matter to the police and Judicial Conduct Committee as conduct that would bring the Judiciary into disrepute,” the office of the chief justice said.

Goliath told the chief justice at the meeting that she had been requested by the alleged victim of assault and another judge, to find out from Mogoeng whether he would have any principled objection to the allegations being reported to the police and Judicial Conduct Committee.

“The chief justice told her that any allegation of misconduct against any judge must, in terms of the code of judicial conduct and the Judicial Service Commission Act, be reported to the Judicial Conduct Committee.

“Additionally, any allegation of a commission of a crime must, without hesitation, be reported to the police.

“He also informed deputy judge president Goliath that failure by any judge to report these allegations to the structures with the legal authority to address them would be a betrayal of what judgeship or the judiciary is all about,” Mogoeng's office said.

Mogoeng said he never had, nor had he legal authority to, personally deal with these issues outside the processes under the JSC Act.

“To suggest otherwise could either be actuated by nefarious reasons (for example, a long-standing desperation to find fault) or misapprehension of the law.

“So far, none of those who have asked the chief justice to intervene in the Western Cape high court could, when he pertinently asked them to, point to any provision in the constitution, Judicial Service Commission Act, any other act of parliament, any regulation or rule that empowers him to discipline a judge or cause him or her to be suspended as many have suggested.

“Yes, the chief justice has been aware of the allegations against judge president Hlophe since late 2019, but those allegations can only be resolved through the application of the law.”

The office of the chief justice said it was necessary to emphasise that he did not have the power to resolve the challenges at the Western Cape high court division and could not exercise power he does not have.


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