Yet another delay in misconduct probe into Western Cape judge president John Hlophe

The 12-year-old complaint was due to be heard next week, but will now be heard in December

20 October 2020 - 15:18
By Franny Rabkin
John Hlophe is accused of trying to influence the outcome of cases related to corruption charges against former president Jacob Zuma. File photo.
Image: Foto24 / Bongiwe Gumede John Hlophe is accused of trying to influence the outcome of cases related to corruption charges against former president Jacob Zuma. File photo.

The Judicial Conduct Tribunal's probe into a 12-year-old complaint of judicial misconduct against Western Cape judge president John Hlophe has been postponed yet again.

The tribunal was meant to get under way on Monday October 26 but the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) confirmed on Tuesday that it would now begin on December 7. This because Hlophe’s counsel, Courtenay Griffiths, was based in the UK with a marathon trial under way, and another witness was unavailable.

The tribunal is meant to investigate whether Hlophe committed gross misconduct when, in 2008, he twice visited the Constitutional Court. The justices of the court at the time all laid an unprecedented, joint complaint that he had sought to influence the outcome of cases then pending before their court, related to corruption charges against former president Jacob Zuma.

At the time it was widely believed that the judgment would decide whether Zuma, then president of the ANC, would be able to ascend to become president of SA. The allegation was the first serious allegation of an attempt to politically interfere in the judiciary.

The JSC initially cleared Hlophe but its decision was set aside as unlawful by the Supreme Court of Appeal in 2011.

When a Judicial Conduct Tribunal was later established in 2013 – under an amendment to the JSC Act - its constitutionality was challenged by none other than the two justices Hlophe was alleged to have sought to influence: Bess Nkabinde and Chris Jafta. The two litigated unsuccessfully all the way to their own court – the Constitutional Court - in 2016, before the tribunal was able to get under way again.

The tribunal began again in 2018, only for Hlophe to seek the recusal of one of the members of the tribunal’s panel, judge Cagney Musi. There were then further delays with arguments with Hlophe’s attorney Barnabas Xulu over fees.

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