“You and I Have a Good Working Relationship” Goliath to Hlophe 0ct 2019

By Akuba Mokoena

WESTERN CAPE Deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath had a “good working relationship” with Judge President John Hlophe. This is captured in her own words in a recording of October 2019, which she made while in a conversation with the Judge President in which she sought clarification about her role following her return to the division and the management changes that had occurred while she was acting judge at the Constitutional Court the year before. 

October 2019: Goliath: “When I came back from Concourt…when I came here things were a bit different and I will be honest with you colleagues did tell me and that Seraj [Judge Seraj Desai] is deputy and he doesnt and his (sic) not much involved and after all I am not interested in those stories that you have sort out changed your management system and I thought fine and when I came here I saw okay it looks like there are changes….. So I thought okay I am going to leave everything as is because my name is on the shortlist  and I dont want to come to you oh Im confronting you over this and that because this is your prerogative. So now that my name is off the list I thought let me come for clarification with you so that we can talk about it because from the looks of it we have ten more years together, by the look of it, and I thought let me find out from you so that it must not look as if I don’t want to do anything and I must come and show my willingness and explain to you why I held back, it is not that I did not want to do anything and I thought don’t interfere take a step back and wait….so what I want to establish from you is what, how would you like me to support you because Im here to stay for ten years, Im not going anywhere, you not going anywhere okay, and my view is that we always had a good working relationship, I don’t see any problem with our working relationship but of course it is your prerogative how in the future you want me to be involved….”

What had started out as a polite conversation in which the judge president recounted an earlier event at which he was invited as the guest speaker and Goliath had lauded him for his excellent speech presentation skills, went downhill. Hlophe told her he didn’t trust her and had established during her absence that he didn’t need a deputy. And the reason for the distrust? He accused her of having interfered in his family affairs which the judge president alludes to in their discussion. Goliath refuted the accusations and revealed the details of what is seemingly spousal abuse by Hlophe in her complaint to the Judicial Services Commission (JSC). 

Barnabas Xulu, Hlophe’s attorney said the transcript Goliath had submitted in her complaint to the JSC, and which captured the events of that meeting, omitted several issues relating to her not getting the Constitutional Court appointment. Goliath had been shortlisted for one of two vacancies at the ConCourt. However, she was not appointed. Here’s a chronology of events that unfolded in the Western Cape Division of the High Court in relation to Hlophe/Goliath/Xulu battle and as it relates to the Goliath’s non-appointment to the ConCourt

October 2019 Despite what she described as “a good working relationship” with her judge president during their meeting, Goliath told Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng on 11 October 2019 that she had, among others, a strained relationship with Hlophe. Here’s the statement by the Chief Justice on this meeting in which he stated that among others, Goliath had not told him she would be lodging a complaint against Hlophe and instead had said the alleged victim of Hlophe’s assault was thinking of doing so. Media_Statement_Issued_by_the_Chief_Justice_Regarding_His_Meeting_with_Deputy_Judge_President_Goliath

On January 15, 2020 Goliath lodged a complaint of ‘gross misconduct’ to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), which included wide ranging allegations against Hlophe. These included that Hlophe had tried to influence who was appointed to hear a politically sensitive court case, that he had assaulted a junior colleague in chambers and had sidelined his deputy, making her working life unbearable. Goliath_DJP_vs_Hlophe_JP

With regards to the charge that Hlophe tried to influence judges, Goliath sited the Earthlife Africa case in which nuclear agreements that South Africa had concluded, including one with Russia, were set aside. She said the Judge President had wanted it allocated to judges that he believed were sympathetic to former president Jacob Zuma.

Xulu questioned why Goliath brought up a case that happened in 2015 only now. “Why didnt she report this earlier? Did she have to wait until it was convenient, like everything else that has transpired? The alleged assault on Parker waited for almost a year before she disclosed it”. Judge Parker has since recanted the allegations that Hlophe assaulted him. 

January 25, 2020 Judge Hlophe-Salie responded to Goliath’s “gross misconduct” complaint issued against her and her husband JP Hlophe. She said the allegations were “palpably untruthful … gossip, designed and orchestrated to ridicule me in the course of pursuing an agenda of destruction”. 

“The complaint is simply a bitter spew to oust the judge president, ambition to succeed him and to garner herself the entitlement she believes she is rather more suitable for”. In the meeting of October 2019, between Hlophe and Goliath, the former had also accused Goliath trying to take his position. 

February 2020: Judge Hlophe responded to Goliath’s complaint denying all allegations as false and lodged a counter complaint to the JSC. He accused Goliath of mentioning the name Zuma in her accusations to create “hype and drama”. He said Goliath’s false accusations amounted to misconduct. 

February 2020 Goliath’s lawyers issued three separate emails to the JSC:

  • to introduce themselves as her counsel on the matter
  • to refute allegations in Hlophe’s counter claim
  • she would not be submitting representations to the JCC prior to its meeting of 21 February 2020

February 19, 2020 Goliath’s lawyers notified the JCC that she would not be attending the meeting of the JCC scheduled for 21 February 2020. No reasons are given. 

March 9, 2020 JCC announced that SCA Judge Nambitha Dambuza would lead an inquiry into Goliath’s complaint

This is an ongoing story and updates will be furnished in future articles

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