Judges enter fray in Goliath versus Hlophe saga

URGENT ATTENTION: Chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng's office has welcomed the Judicial Service Commission's assurance that it will expeditiously deal with the complaint against Western Cape high court judge president John Hlophe and his wife, judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe.
URGENT ATTENTION: Chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng's office has welcomed the Judicial Service Commission's assurance that it will expeditiously deal with the complaint against Western Cape high court judge president John Hlophe and his wife, judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe.
Image: Gallo Images / Foto24 / Mary-Ann Palmer

Western Cape high court judges have broken their silence on the controversy that has engulfed the court.

Deputy judge president Patricia Goliath has accused her boss, judge president John Hlophe, and his wife, judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe, of gross misconduct.

Goliath said what was happening “compromises the proper functioning of our court, the concomitant imperatives of integrity and significantly, and severely, impinges on the court’s dignity”.

In her complaint, Goliath painted a picture of a couple running the court like a fiefdom.

In a statement from the office of the chief justice this week, the judges of the Cape Town high court welcomed the Judicial Service Commission’s (JSC’s) assurance that it would deal with the complaint “without fear, favour or prejudice and as expeditiously as reasonably practicable”.

“For as long as the allegations remain unresolved, the confidence which the public is entitled to place in the integrity of the Western Cape bench will be impaired,” the statement said.

It also defended Western Cape high court judges’ silence on the matter.

POWER COUPLE: Western Cape judge president John Hlophe and judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe during their wedding in Cape Town in April 2015
POWER COUPLE: Western Cape judge president John Hlophe and judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe during their wedding in Cape Town in April 2015
Image: Sunday Times/Esa Alexander

“It has been suggested in the press that the judges of this division have remained silent through cowardice or complicity. That is emphatically not so.

“Given the procedure for investigating complaints against judges, the proper place for judges with relevant knowledge to speak is before the JCC (judicial conduct committee) and any judicial conduct tribunal that may be established.”

Goliath said Salie-Hlophe was involved in selecting acting judges and accused the judge president of trying to influence the outcome of a nuclear case.

GRAVELY CONCERNED: Western Cape deputy judge president Patricia Goliath
GRAVELY CONCERNED: Western Cape deputy judge president Patricia Goliath
Image: judgesmatter.co.za

She said Hlophe had stripped her of her duties and  also mentioned the couple’s alleged personal issues.

“It appears not to be a salutary practice for the partner of a judge president to serve in the same division,” she said in her complaint to the JSC last month.

Salie-Hlophe dismissed the claims against her as “palpably untruthful, at best can be called eloquently stated gossip, designed and orchestrated to ridicule me in the course of pursuing an agenda of destruction”.

 

Her lawyer, Barnabas Xulu, dismissed the complaint as having “nothing to do with judicial misconduct but a series of gossips, rumour-mongering and information allegedly obtained from the grapevine”.

“The [deputy judge president] obviously disagrees with the management of the division which is solely reserved for the [judge president),” he said.

“It is well known that as a result of her disagreement with the management style of the division, there is tension between the [two].

“Our client’s rights to file a response to the appropriate forum remains reserved, save to deny that [Goliath’s] complaint has any merit.”

NGO Freedom Under Law weighed in on the saga, saying in a statement, that Hlophe had “gone on to plunge the judiciary in more sordid scandal and public disrepute than any judge” in the history of the Cape bench and called for his “urgent suspension”.

The JSC said it was regrettable that the complaint had been leaked to the media.

It said it took the unprecedented step of issuing a statement after it was inundated with requests by the media and the public to comment on the issue.

It said its JCC, chaired by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, was handling the complaint.

“There is therefore no need for anyone to provide any unsolicited guidance on how the JCC should deal with complaints,” the JSC said.  — TimesLIVE

 

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