Parliament defers vote on removal of judges

"Some MPs won't be able to attend"

Andisiwe Makinana Political correspondent
John Hlophe was once regarded as the 'darling' of the Western Cape legal fraternity. Now the judge president faces possible impeachment. File image.
John Hlophe was once regarded as the 'darling' of the Western Cape legal fraternity. Now the judge president faces possible impeachment. File image.

Parliament has deferred the removal of judges John Hlophe and Nkola Motata from judicial office to the new year because it doesn’t have a venue for a full sitting to vote on the matter.

The National Assembly’s programme committee decided on Thursday a special sitting will be convened in January for MPs to attend in person and vote on whether the suspended Western Cape High Court judge president and retired Gauteng judge should be impeached.

The justice portfolio committee which processed the reports of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) which found the two judges guilty of gross misconduct voted to recommend the removal of the justices.

The committee concluded its work on Thursday. Its recommendation has to be supported by two-thirds (267) of the 400 MPs to take effect.

Considering that next week is the last week of parliament sittings before the December holidays, ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina proposed the matter be deferred to January due to parliament’s tight schedule and lack of a suitable venue.

“We appreciate that the portfolio committee on justice has finalised the reports on the two judges and that is supposed to come to the assembly and the requirement for such report to be adopted is two-thirds majority,” she said.

“Given the tight schedule of the assembly between now and the rise of the house, I see no possibility of tabling that report because it will need physical attendance.”

Majodina was concerned that the Cape Town City Hall, which parliament often uses for full sittings, would not be available at short notice because of festive season bookings.

She also noted some MPs, including herself, were out of the country and would not be able to attend in person.

Her proposal was backed by National Assembly speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who said there was no hope of getting a venue before parliament adjourns.

“We have received a request from the committee that they have finalised everything and they are ready to present the matter to the assembly, hence the decision from our side that it would be better to do it in the beginning of next year as we will not be able to do it before parliament rises next week because of challenges of the venue.”

The IFP and DA were not convinced.

IFP chief whip Narend Singh said the delay was unfortunate especially as the Motata matter has been outstanding for years.

“I agree we can’t do it in the next two days or next week, but we must find the earliest opportunity to deal with those matters.”

The DA’s Siviwe Gwarube echoed Singh’s disappointment.

Previously there were indications that parliament wanted to wrap up the matter before the end of the year.

Section 177 of the constitution provides for a judge to be removed from office only if the JSC finds the justice suffers from an incapacity, is grossly incompetent or guilty of gross misconduct. The National Assembly would then call for the judge to be removed by a resolution with a supporting vote required of at least two-thirds of its members.

Thereafter, the president would remove the justice from office upon adoption of a resolution by parliament calling for such. – TimesLIVE

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