Impeached! Motion to remove Judge John Hlophe succeeds with 305 votes

Judge John Hlophe waits for the JSC meeting to start this morning at the Parktonian in Braamfontein. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu/Independent Newspapers

Judge John Hlophe waits for the JSC meeting to start this morning at the Parktonian in Braamfontein. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu/Independent Newspapers

Published Feb 21, 2024


Parliament has voted in support of a motion to impeach suspended Western Cape High Court Judge President John Hlophe from office after a majority of 305 members backed the motion.

A total of 25 members of the National Assembly voted against his removal.

The impeachment of Hlophe on Wednesday comes after his bid to interdict the process failed in the Western Cape High Court.

House chairperson Cedric Frolick said the matter will be referred to President Cyril Ramaphosa to approve the decision of the national legislature.

The matter has been dragging on for years.

In 2008, as the sitting Western Cape Judge President, Hlophe was accused of attempting to influence the Constitutional Court's decision on search and seizure raids carried out by the Scorpions on properties of Jacob Zuma and French arms manufacturing giant Thint.

In 2021, the Judicial Services Commission found Hlophe guilty of gross misconduct. At the time, the spokesperson for the JSC, advocate Dali Mpofu, said that in line with the provisions of the Constitution, the matter of the impeachment would be referred to the National Assembly for a decision.

In December 2022, President Cyril Ramaphosa placed Hlophe on suspension.

The African National Congress (ANC) MPs, the Democratic Alliance (DA), the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), the United Democratic Movement and other parties also backed the motion to impeach Hlophe, while the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), African Transformation Movement (ATM) and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) were among the parties who voted against the motion.

They described the removal of Hlophe as unjustifiable.

“The House calls for the removal of Judge President Hlophe in terms of Section 177. This resolution will be communicated to the President,” said Frolick.

Chairperson of the Justice and Correctional Service Committee, Bulelani Magwanishe, said judges had to uphold the rule of law.

He said the case of Hlophe has been dragging on for more than 15 years.

He said the law was clear that if a judge has been found guilty of gross misconduct by the Judicial Service Commission, the impeachment process kicks in.

The courts must be independent as they are the final arbiters in disputes.

“When the same judges are found wanting how do we hold them accountable,” said Magwanishe.

EFF MP Busisiwe Mkhwebane said there had been a political witchhunt against Hlophe for many years.

She said Hlophe was not trying to influence any judges of the apex court.

“His sin is that he discussed law with his colleagues,” said Mkhwebane.

She said Hlophe has been abused over the years and there was a campaign against him which led to the process of removing him.

DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach said Hlophe was found to have tried to influence two judges of the Constitutional Court and was taken through a process by the Judicial Service Commission.

“The impeachment of Hlophe or any judge has profound implications for the judicial integrity. It sends a clear message that no one is above the law,” said Breytenbach.

The decision of parliament to remove Hlophe showed South Africa was committed to the rule of law.

IFP chief whip Narend Singh said judges must adhere to ethical standards and uphold the rule of law.

They support the recommendations of the justice committee to remove Hlophe from office.

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