President Cyril Ramaphosa has on the advice of the Judicial Services Commission (“JSC”) and in terms of section 177(3) of the Constitution, decided to suspend Judge President Mandlakayise John Hlophe from his duties pending a decision of the National Assembly as contemplated in section 177 of the Constitution.
In order to ensure continuity and stability in the work of the divisional high court, the suspension which is in effect immediately is on condition that Judge President Hlophe completes all part-heard matters and reserved judgments.
President Ramaphosa received the JSC report on the 27th of July 2022.
Due to the long history and complexity of the matter, President Ramaphosa took time to carefully consider all the permutations of the JSC recommendations, including obtaining guidance from an independent legal opinion.
The President fully appreciated the need to balance Judge President Hlophe’s rights with those of the public and the interest of the judiciary as a whole.
Section 177 (3) of the Constitution provides that the President, on the advice of the JSC, may suspend a judge who is the subject of a procedure in terms of subsection (1) that deals with the removal of a judge who is found guilty of gross misconduct.
The Judicial Conduct Tribunal (“JCT”) concluded that Judge President Hlophe’s conduct breached the provisions of section 165 of the Constitution by improperly attempting to influence the two Justices of the Constitutional Court to violate their oaths of office.
The JCT established that Judge Hlophe’s behavior seriously threatened and interfered with the independence, impartiality, dignity and effectiveness of the Constitutional Court and further undermined public confidence in the judicial system.
The JSC has referred the matter to parliament for the National Assembly to institute impeachment proceedings against Judge President Hlophe.
In May 2008, 11 Justices of the Constitutional Court lodged a complaint with the JSC against Judge President Hlophe for his improper attempt to influence the outcome of certain cases pending before the Constitutional Court in favour of former President Jacob Zuma.