Politics & Legal

National Assembly Elects Impeached John Hlophe to Judicial Service Commission

In a surprising turn of events, the National Assembly has elected John Hlophe, a former judge president impeached for gross misconduct, to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). This decision has sparked significant controversy, given that the JSC played a key role in his impeachment.

The National Assembly has made a contentious decision by electing John Hlophe, leader of the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) Party in Parliament, to serve at the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). This move has raised eyebrows, as the same legislative body previously recommended his impeachment as a judge.

Hlophe’s election is particularly controversial due to the involvement of the JSC in his removal from the judiciary. The new commissioners joining him include Soviet Lekganyane and Fasiha Hassan from the ANC, Glynnis Breytenbach from the Democratic Alliance, Julius Malema from the Economic Freedom Fighters, and Athol Trollip from Action SA. These representatives from the National Assembly will participate in interviewing judges and regulating their conduct.

Critics, including Lawson Naidoo from the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution, have condemned the decision. Naidoo stated, “It is totally illogical and irrational for someone who has been found guilty of gross misconduct by the JSC and impeached by Parliament to be appointed as a member of the JSC.”

John Hlophe, who served as the judge president of the Western Cape, was formally removed by President Cyril Ramaphosa in March following a parliamentary vote for his impeachment. This vote marked Hlophe as the first judge in democratic South Africa to be removed from office due to gross judicial misconduct.

The controversy dates back to 2008 when Constitutional Court justices Chris Jafta and Bess Nkabinde accused Hlophe of attempting to influence their judgment in a case involving former president Jacob Zuma. Their complaints led to a tribunal inquiry, which found Hlophe guilty of gross misconduct in April 2021. This finding was upheld by the JSC later that year, resulting in the National Assembly’s decision to impeach Hlophe in February.

The parliamentary vote saw 305 MPs in favor of Hlophe’s impeachment, with only 27 against. Following this, President Ramaphosa enacted the formal removal of Hlophe from his judicial position, as stipulated in section 177 (1) and (2) of the South African Constitution.

Despite losing his judicial title and the associated lifetime salary, Hlophe’s appointment to the JSC means he will now oversee the very judges he was deemed unfit to join. This paradoxical situation has led to widespread debate about the implications for the integrity of the judicial oversight body.

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