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Tuesday, 09 July 2024 13:47

National Assembly appoints impeached John Hlophe to Judicial Service Commission.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

Impeached judge John Hlophe was successfully elected to represent the National Assembly on the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), at a sitting of the assembly on Tuesday. 

Hlophe was elected by MPs in the National Assembly despite objections from various parties, including the DA, IFP and ATM. 

The ANC supported the nomination of Hlophe on the grounds that neither the rules of the National Assembly nor the constitution stipulated the qualifications required of an MP to sit on the JSC. 

He was impeached by Parliament in February after the Judicial Service Commission found him guilty of gross misconduct.

The charge stemmed from his attempt in 2008 to influence two Constitutional Court judges to rule in favour of former president Jacob Zuma in his arms deal corruption case.

Hlophe, who is now a Member of Parliament, was nominated to the JSC by his political party Umkhonto weSizwe party. 

DA chief whip George Michalakis told MPs that Hlophe's selection to serve on the JSC was an ethical issue.

"Even if the majority today hold the view that any person who is fit and proper to be a Member of Parliament is fit and proper to be the member of JSC, it must follow a large number of applicants to be interviewed by the JSC going forward. We will object and apply for the recusal of Hlophe."

ANC chief whip Mdumiseni Ntuli said the party respected the DA's right to raise concerns about Hlophe's nomination "for the reasons that they are advancing". But the ANC believed that the conventions of parliament should be respected until such time that the rules or the law may be amended.

"We have agreed that in instances where the rules of parliament or the Constitution has not clearly defined a particular position, we are going to have to live on the basis of the established rules and practices of parliament," he said.

The MK party's Sihle Ngubane said the constitution and rules of Parliament do not prohibit Hlophe's appointment to the JSC.

"The constitution does not contain an inherent qualification requirement for members to sit on the JSC since members who qualify to be appointed to the JSC are already members of the Parliament and therefore bound by their oath of office. The constitution, in its wisdom, does not regulate the qualification of members to sit in the JSC."

Ngubane added that Hlophe is a graduate of the prestigious Cambridge University.  

"The MKP has done huge justice to the House, to bring into the law-making House a Cambridge PhD graduate with a law degree, to come into the House and assist the House to make the laws of this country."

At the same time, the EFF's Floyd Shivambu said Hlophe's nomination should be respected.

"There are so many less than capable members of the DA, some of them are serving in the executive now, who do not have any form of qualification or direction. We have not yet exposed their incapacity because they are eligible to be appointed even as executives. Some of them are even deputised by people who are more qualified than them. 

"It's just a group of white illiterates, semi-illiterates that are presiding over the government because a certain section of society has given you that responsibility."

Civil society organisations have vehemently opposed the membership of Hlophe on the JSC.

Freedom Under Law reiterated on Tuesday that it may take the matter on legal review.

"It is a travesty that someone who was found guilty of misconduct and stripped of his position as a judge is now in a position to decide on the suitability of other candidates for judicial appointment," executive officer Judith February said.

Judges Matter said it was disappointed by the legislature's decision to appoint Hlophe to the JSC and former communications minister Faith Muthambi, who has been criticised by the courts for ethical breaches, to the Magistrate's Commission.

"We believe it undermines the credibility of these commissions and the integrity of the judiciary, "the watchdog NGO said.

Legal observers have said that although it may not be unlawful to let an impeached judge ascend to the JSC, it was unethical. 

The other members elected by the National Assembly were Molapi Lekganyane and Fasiha Hassan from the ANC, EFF leader Julius Malema, the DA's Glynnis Breytenbach and Action SA parliamentary leader Athol Trollip.