25 November 2020
MEDIA STATEMENT BY FREEDOM UNDER LAW
Freedom Under Law has instructed its lawyers to prepare an urgent application in the Constitutional Court following a grave breach of the Rule of Law. These are the facts:
For several years the public at large, more specifically in the Western Cape, has been following with mounting alarm reports of disciplinary proceedings against the Judge President of the Western Cape High Court, Judge John Hlophe. More recently these reports have included mention of another of the Western Cape judges, Judge Mushtaq Parker, who reported last year, including recording such complaint in an affidavit, that his Judge President had accosted him in his chambers and knocked him down.
However, when the complaint later formed the basis of a charge of gross misconduct against Judge Hlophe, Judge Parker changed course and supported his Judge President’s denial of the assault. Predictably this about-face on oath resulted in a charge of gross misconduct against him.
The charges against both judges have been examined by a committee of the Judicial Service Commission, which has recommended they be referred to tribunals to decide on impeachment.
More than a month ago President Ramaphosa, acting in terms of the Constitution and on the advice of the JSC, ordered that Judge Parker be suspended from doing any new work pending the outcome of the proceedings against him (which include another serious charge). Meanwhile Judge Hlophe is also due to appear before another tribunal early next month on an unrelated long-standing charge.
Early this week Freedom Under Law, which has been following Judge Hlophe’s conduct for years, became aware that he had apparently added yet another act of gross impropriety to his chequered track-record. Notwithstanding the order of the President suspending Judge Parker, Judge Hlophe had reportedly allocated him new judicial work.
Defying the President’s order issued in terms of the Constitution would in itself constitute gross misconduct warranting impeachment. It seems incredible that the senior Judge President in the country, acting in concert with one of his judges, was defying the order, and Freedom Under Law’s attorneys have asked the judges to confirm that they were not in fact acting as alleged.
If they fail to do so by 17:00 on 25 November, urgent proceedings will be launched in the Constitutional Court to enforce compliance with the law and the Constitution.