The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services today resolved to provide former Western Cape Judge President, Judge John Hlophe, and Judge Nkola Motata until the middle of November to provide them with extenuating circumstances to consider when they deliberate on their impeachment.
Committee Chairperson Mr Bulelani Magwanishe said both judges will be given until 15 November 2023 to provide such information. The committee will then deliberate on these matters on 22 November 2023. Both judges have been found guilty of gross misconduct by the Judicial Services Committee (JSC).
Today, the committee received a briefing from Dr Barbara Loots of Parliament’s Constitutional and Legal Services regarding the process followed so far and the way forward. The committee heard that its role is limited and does not include conducting an enquiry or repeating the work of the JSC. Parliament’s responsibility is to indicate whether the finding justifies impeachment.
The committee heard that the Judge Hlophe matter dates from 2008 and revolves around the alleged corruption relating to the Thint arms deal, which was before the Constitutional Court. It is alleged that Judge Hlophe met with Judge Chris Jafta and Judge Bess Nkabinde in their respective chambers prior to the judgement. A complaint was filed with the JSC in May 2008 by the Justices of the Constitutional Court about an attempt to improperly influence the outcome of the case and other related issues.
The committee also heard of several delays in the process and received a comprehensive timeline including the JSC’s final decision on 25 August 2021 that found Judge Hlophe guilty of gross misconduct, in an eight to four vote.
Regarding the JSC finding against Judge Motata, the committee received a letter requesting an extension to study the JSC finding until 30 November 2023. The JSC considered two complaints against Judge Motata. One concerned his defence in his criminal trial and the other is a charge of racism.
In the first matter, when conducting a trial, the accused lawyer is obliged to present a defence based on instructions received from the accused. In Judge Motata’s case, he instructed his lawyer to inform the court that he was not drunk at the scene of a motor accident. The tribunal thereafter concluded that Judge Motata had conducted a defence that he knew lacked integrity.
On the complaint of racism, the tribunal held that the Judge’s conduct and remarks at the scene of the car accident were racist, and thus impinged on and prejudiced the impartiality and dignity of the courts. The comments the tribunal focused were: “This used to be a white man’s land . . . South Africa belongs to us . . . This is our world . . . not the world of the Boers . . . even if they have more land/bodies . . .”
Dr Loots told the committee that currently there is no legal impediment for the committee to proceed with its process. She reminded the committee that it not for Parliament to run an enquiry into the JSC’s processes, as Judge Hlophe’s letter to the committee appears to request.
Mr Magwanishe said the committee also resolved that its public involvement process will be limited to making its meetings open to the media and the public in order for the public to follow the process and to ensure transparency. This is due to the limited role that the committee itself has in terms of Section 177 of the Constitution.
ISSUED BY THE PARLIAMENTARY COMMUNICATION SERVICES ON BEHALF OF THE CHAIRPERSON OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON JUSTICE AND CORRECTIONAL SERVICES, MR BULELANI MAGWANISHE.