Freedom Under Law welcomes the decision by the President yesterday to suspend the Judge President of the Western Cape High Court, Judge MJ Hlophe, in terms of section 177 (3) of the Constitution.
On 25 July 2022 the Judicial Service Commission recommended to the President that he suspend Judge President Hlophe, this as a consequence of its finding of gross misconduct such as to warrant impeachment proceedings. That finding arises from a formal complaint laid over 14 years ago (in May 2008) by judges of the Constitutional Court with the JSC. The JSC found that Judge Hlophe had attempted to unduly influence the decisions of members of the Constitutional Court in litigation regarding warrants issued against former President Zuma.
Earlier this year FUL publicly expressed its serious concern regarding any further delay in suspending. Judge Hlophe was continuing to allocate cases, to hear matters himself, and to sit on the JSC itself, inter alia in the selection of new judges. This despite the JSC’s finding of gross misconduct, a finding by the Supreme Court of Appeal of bias in proceedings he had conducted and yet further complaints (including one by his own deputy) now pending against him.
In October FUL again urged the President to act on the matter, failing which it would be necessary to seek a court mandamus that he do so. There having been no substantive reaction, FUL’s lawyers commenced proceedings.
The President’s decision now is an important step towards restoring public trust and the proper operation of the Western Cape High Court.