Parliament will soon kick-start the process of impeaching Western Cape Judge President, John Hlophe. Hlophe was found guilty of gross misconduct by a Judicial Conduct Tribunal for trying to sway two Constitutional Court Justices to rule in favour of the then African National Congress (ANC) President, Jacob Zuma.
National Assembly Speaker, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has told the Assembly’s Programming Committee that she has referred the matter to the Portfolio Committee on Justice.
Mapisa-Nqakula says she’s been informed that the National Assembly has no rules for the removal of a judge, hence the matter has been sent to the Justice Committee. She says the committee will have to consider procedural aspects of the removal of Judge Hlophe and report back to the House after completing its work.
“And the committee will consider the procedural aspects of the matter and report to the house and then we are happy that there will be a vote in the house and of course the removal of a Judge will require a two-thirds majority. I’m sure we all familiar with the Constitution saying we need a two-thirds majority and all accompanying documentation by both majority and minority judges,” says the National Assembly Speaker.
VIDEO: Judge President John Hlophe guilty of gross misconduct
Removal of a judge
The Constitution stipulates that the removal of a judge requires a two-thirds majority of members of the National Assembly to support the resolution. The committee has also been told that the Constitution does not require this to be done through a secret ballot.
However, some opposition party members have requested the Speaker to find out if she can’t exercise her discretion and call for a secret ballot. They also wanted to know how the voting is going to take place as the majority of members are on virtual platforms.
“I think perhaps we must start considering the type of voting that is going to take place is it going to be a secret ballot is it going to be ordinary voting and to accommodate the voting,” says Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) Chief Whip, Narend Singh.
“I think procedurally speaking the decision that you have taken to refer this issue to the Justice Committee is a correct one it is a very serious matter it is the first time since the adoption of the constitution that we are confronted with this kind of a situation I agree with Mr. Singh that we have to look at the voting procedure,” adds Freedom Front Plus Chief Whip, Corne Mulder.
House chairperson, Cedric Frolick says they’re looking into the feasibility of electronic voting.
“We are receiving a report from the ICT on electronic voting and we should be in a position to brief the chief whips forum and also the NAPC on the work that has been done there and we will then be able to take probably through the rules committee so that we can effect to the implementation of electronic voting,” says House chairperson, Cedric Frolick.
The National Freedom Party (NFP) felt that due to the seriousness of the matter, smaller parties must represent themselves in the Justice Committee and participate in all processes.
Party MP, Shaik Emam says they can’t be represented by parties with different ideologies on a matter like this.
“My concern is that not all members of different political parties appear on the justice committee that’s the first thing now I know you said they going to come back to us on the procedure if it is going to be deliberated at the Justice Committee all members must participate in any process before this is brought to the house.”
The committee also heard that MPs who sit on the Judicial Services Commission were not part of the processes that took the decision recommending Hlophe’s impeachment.