Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has come out in defense of the judiciary, saying it had never shied away from openly pursuing any judge accused of misconduct. "Most cases of alleged misconduct against judges have been speedily finalized," Justice Mogoeng said while presenting the 2018/2019 judiciary annual report in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, on Thursday. He added the cases of Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe and retired judge Nikola Motata, as well as judges Ferdi Preller, Moses Mavundla and Ntsikelelo Phoswa, had taken long for "good reasons". GroundUp reported that questions about Hlope still remained unanswered more than 10 years after two judges complained about his conduct.
Hlope allegedly attempted to influence Constitutional Court judges in a case involving former president Jacob Zuma. The complaint was laid by the full Constitutional Court bench, which alleged that Hlophe had approached justices Bess Nkabinde and Christopher Jafta in an attempt to improperly influence them in a case before the court involving Zuma. On the issue of Motata - after the judicial tribunal ruled that the conduct of the retired judge at the scene of a car crash in 2007 was racist and lacked integrity, the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) will have to consider the report and its recommendations. Justice Mogoeng said the Motata matter would be finalized this week, adding that in all these cases, which involved judges, litigation had been involved. "These [cases] have been the subject matter of a series of legal challenges that led to inordinate delays which nobody could have done anything about."He said as the judiciary, or the JSC, they had no power to deny people their constitutional right of access to courts because they were judges."Criticism that assumes that we could have, but failed to, expedite this process can in the very least only be a consequence of ignorance or frustration."It must be said that the judiciary has never shied away from openly pursuing any judge who is rightly or wrongly accused of misconduct."
Justice Mogoeng also delved into allegations of corruption faced by the judiciary, saying they had been "examined closely".He explained neither he nor the JSC had the legal authority to "peer into the bank accounts of our colleagues as it would be criminal".He said the judiciary was not a perfect institution."Any South African who cares about our constitutional democracy, any South African who cares about the future of our children, we say to you, we're not a perfect institution."He added he had instructed the secretary-general of the Office of the Chief Justice to ask national police commissioner General Khehla Sitole to investigate and locate the real faces behind allegations of corruption against certain judges. Justice Mogoeng said Sitole had referred the matter to the Hawks.
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