Judge John Hlophe

Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe. Photo: AFP

Judge Hlophe granted leave to appeal JSC gross misconduct finding

In August last year, the JSC ruled that Judge John Hlophe must face impeachment, paving the way for his removal from the bench

Judge John Hlophe

Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe. Photo: AFP

In a minor victory for Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe, the High Court in Gauteng has granted him leave to appeal a gross misconduct finding by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

He can now approach the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).

In August, the JSC ruled that Hlophe must face impeachment, a move which paves the way for his removal from the bench. The decision upholds a gross misconduct finding against Hlophe earlier this year by the Judicial Conduct Tribunal in relation to a complaint laid by Constitutional Court justices.

Here’s a recap: Justices Bess Nkabinde and Chris Jafta, had accused Hlophe of trying to persuade them into ruling in favour of former president Jacob Zuma in 2008. This was in relation to Zuma’s arms deal case with French weapons manufacturer Thales, which is still before the courts.

Hlophe is said to have visited them separately in their chambers to discuss pending judgments in the corruption matter, which is in breach of Section 165 of the Constitution. When the Tribunal ruled against Hlophe in April, it said his conduct seriously threatened and interfered with the independence, impartiality, dignity and effectiveness of the Constitutional Court and public confidence in the judicial system.


In his application for leave to appeal, Judge John Hlophe accused the Johannesburg High Court of  misconstruing the Constitution and case law to find that the JSC was properly constituted when it concluded he should be impeached.

He said the court should have instead taken the JSC to task for making errors in their probe against him for gross misconduct.

“The motive for the court in embarking on a new approach to interpreting section 178 to avoid what it calls a paralysis … [gives] rise to a credible inference of a court intent on protecting unlawful proceedings for a purpose unrelated to the Constitution itself,” Judge Hlophe said.

Freedom Under Law (FUL) recently reiterated its call for Judge Hlophe to be axed, following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision to suspend Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

“Freedom Under Law has repeatedly called on the JSC to recommend his suspension to the president: perhaps the action now taken against the public protector will galvanise them into action,” the organisation said.