Judge Hlophe’s removal process to get under way after the polls
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Parliament has indicated that it will not reopen the inquiry into Western Cape High Judge President John Hlophe or run a parallel process to that of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).
However, the justice committee said this week it will stick to the law and do its work before reporting back to the National Assembly.
This was after Parliament’s legal advisers made a presentation to the committee on the process to be followed.
Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula had received a report from the JSC after it found Hlophe guilty of gross misconduct.
This related to the finding that he had tried to influence justices Bess Nkabinde and Chris Jafta in the arms deal case of former president Jacob Zuma.
The recently concluded complaint was lodged with the JSC almost 12 years ago.
In the meeting of the justice committee, it was agreed the process would not be opened up but to ensure it was dealt with properly.
Legal adviser for Parliament, advocate Barbara Loots said the removal of a judge would require a two-thirds majority.
“That is different from section 194 because the inquiry process has been done, it is not for Parliament to look at what the grounds were because the JSC has done that.
“The role of Parliament here unlike sections 89 and 194, it performs the check and balance function. The National Assembly’s role here in section 177 is such a check,” said Loots.
She said Parliament has a limited role in this regard.
“The National Assembly should not rubber-stamp anything. Every decision the assembly takes should be rational.”
She said the committee must also do the background check on the matter.
“There are no special rules necessary as we are not doing an inquiry.”
Chairperson of the justice committee, Bulelani Magwanishe said this was not the reopening of the process.
He said the committee would have to follow what is prescribed in the law on its role in the matter.
“The issue of giving the affected party the right of reply the question will be, ’would that not amount to the re-opening of the process’, because what if the person comes with 100 issues that in his opinion were not properly dealt with then it means we must give the same to the JSC, the right of reply to the JSC. Would that not amount to the re-opening of the process,” said Magwanishe.
DA MP Werner Horn said the role of the committee is to advise the National Assembly on what would need to happen.
He said the scope of the committee was clear and it cannot go beyond what is required of it.
“The challenge for us as the committee is that we must advise the national assembly to maintain the balance between not serving as a rubber-stamp as legal services put it and embrace that check and oversight function while not venturing into the terrain which could make us guilty of acting as a review body,” said Horn.
ANC MP Qubudile Dyantyi said they would need to apply their mind properly on the matter.
The removal process of Hlophe will be done after the November 1 local government elections.