The Judicial Conduct Committee has recommended that Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe and his deputy, Patricia Goliath, are brought before an inquiry to determine whether the complaints the two have lodged against one another should be escalated to a judicial conduct tribunal.
In a statement released yesterday, the committee said the complaints had been referred to Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo for an inquiry in terms of section 17 of the Judicial Services Committee Act.
“In reaching this decision, the majority, as per Justices [Dumisani] Zondi and [Phineas] Mojapelo, held that on the available evidence and in the absence of Goliath’s response and representations, which is the material that the committee had to consider at its meeting, an inquiry in terms of section 17 was required,” the statement read.
“They reasoned that following the section 17 inquiry, a finding could still be made that either one or both of the complaints should be referred to be investigated and reported on by a tribunal.”
Such an inquiry was “required to be inquisitorial in nature” and that there was “no onus on any person to prove or disprove any allegation of fact”.
This year, Goliath lodged a gross misconduct complaint against Hlophe. Her claims included that Hlophe had given his wife, Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe, preferential treatment, as well as that he had tried to allocate judges seen as “favourably disposed” to former president Jacob Zuma to preside over his Earthlife Africa case.
Hlophe retaliated by accusing Goliath of a “malicious and bad faith attempt to generate public outrage, lynching and condemnation of my leadership of the division that would support calls for my immediate suspension and removal”.
The committee found that if either complaint were established, “it is likely to lead to a finding that the respondent … is guilty of gross misconduct” and it was therefore obliged to refer the complaints to an inquiry.
The inquiry could see the complaints dismissed, remedial action taken or the matter escalated to a tribunal.