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Hlophe must face tribunal over assault allegations, says Judicial Conduct Committee

Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe.
Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe.

The Judicial Conduct Committee on Friday recommended that a judicial conduct tribunal be established to investigate and report on allegations of assault by Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe.

The committee said if it was established that Hlophe assaulted fellow judge Mushtak Parker last year, it is likely to lead to a finding that Hlophe was guilty of gross misconduct, which could warrant his impeachment.

The committee, headed by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, was dealing with complaints laid by Deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath against Hlophe, and the complaint by Hlophe against Goliath.

In her complaint in January, Goliath accused Hlophe of gross misconduct.

Goliath also accused Hlophe of attempting to interfere in a legal challenge to the inter-governmental agreement between SA and Russian nuclear agency Rosatom. She also accused him of assaulting Parker last year.

In his capacity as acting chairperson of the Judicial Conduct Committee, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo had referred the complaints against Hlophe by Goliath and Hlophe's counter-complaints against Goliath to a panel of three JCC members.

The panel was directed to investigate whether a recommendation that the complaints be investigated and reported on by a tribunal would be appropriate.

“Because all committee members were disqualified from entertaining this matter by reason of their prior involvement it became inescapable that I get involved.

“Failure to do so would have meant that the matter be left unresolved for a long time or forever,” Mogoeng said.

In his determination, Mogoeng said Goliath essentially had three complaints against Hlophe that he could make out. One was the alleged assault.

“The JP [Judge President] allegedly assaulted Judge Parker, inside his chambers which is obviously located within the high court building during and apparently office hours.”

Mogoeng said a counter-complaint by Hlophe against Goliath was that because the media had access to Goliath's complaint shortly after it was filed to the Judicial Conduct Committee, she must have leaked it to the media. Hlophe said this was gross misconduct.

Mogoeng said Hlophe does have a case to answer for on the complaint of assault.

“I am satisfied that in the event of it being established that he assaulted Judge Parker as alleged, within the court building and during working hours, it is likely to lead to a finding that the JP is guilty of gross misconduct.

“It is simply unthinkable that a Judge President however angry he or she might be, would commit a crime of violence against another person, talk less of a fellow judge within an institution that exists to rid society of criminality — a court of justice,” Mogoeng said.

Mogoeng said of all of Hlophe's complaints against Goliath, none of them has merit and must be dismissed.

“I therefore recommend to the committee ... to consider recommending to the commission that a tribunal be established to to investigate and report on allegations of assault, use of abusive language and abuse of power in relation to the office of the DJP, levelled by Goliath DJP against Hlophe JP,” Mogoeng said.

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