EXPLAINER | Hlophe has been found guilty of gross misconduct, now what?
Section 177 of the constitution provides for the process of impeaching a judge — and Western Cape judge president John Hlophe could become the first in democratic SA to be removed from office.
The Judicial Conduct Tribunal unanimously found that Hlophe “improperly attempted to influence” two judges of the Constitutional Court.
Finding him guilty of “gross misconduct”, the tribunal’s report has now been submitted to the chairperson of the Judicial Services Commission which will determine his fate.
If the commission agrees with the finding of the tribunal that Judge Hlophe is guilty of gross misconduct, it triggers a process where the matter is referred to the National Assembly.
There, two thirds of members must vote for impeachment, at which time the judge is formally removed from office by the president.
If the National Assembly does not vote in favour of impeachment the judge may still be sanctioned for lesser misconduct.
Such punitive measures include an order for an apology, a reprimand, counselling or training.
In 2019, the JSC ruled on the matter of now retired judge Nkola Motata who crashed his car into a wall while drunk in 2007 and allegedly made racist utterances afterwards.
The JSC ruled, by majority, that while he was guilty of misconduct, this was not deemed to be gross misconduct and he should rather pay a fine.