Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe insists it would be ‘unconstitutional’ for President Cyril Ramaphosa to suspend him until his challenge of the process that sees him facing impeachment is finalised.

‘If I am unlawfully suspended, it would undermine my dignity in the eyes of ordinary people that cannot be restored by a favourable resolution of the National Assembly,’ Hlophe states in his Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg) application to block Ramaphosa from suspending him.

He also wants the court to interdict Parliament from proceeding with an impeachment vote against him, notes legal writer Karyn Maughan in a News24 report.

‘I am entitled to an interdict preventing the exercise of constitutional powers that would result in a violation of the Constitution,’ Hlophe argues before revealing that he has appealed directly to the President not to suspend him.

Hlophe launched his urgent legal action six days before the JSC was due to vote on whether to recommend to Ramaphosa that he be suspended.

It has taken 13 years for Hlophe to finally face possible impeachment, after being found guilty of gross misconduct for trying to sway two Constitutional Court justices to rule in favour of then ANC president Jacob Zuma – in a crucial court challenge to the admissibility of corruption trial evidence against him.

Hlophe insists that the findings, as well as the JSC vote last month that supported them, are unlawful and must be set aside.

Given this legal challenge, he argues, the commission cannot recommend to Ramaphosa that he be suspended.

‘Where the findings of the JSC are under judicial scrutiny as in this case, the JSC cannot advise the President to suspend me, but to suspend me only after a court has upheld its findings,’ Hlophe argues, notes the News24 report.

‘In other words, in these circumstances, the JSC may only advise the President not to suspend me pending the outcome of my application to review and set aside the findings of the JSC.’

Hlophe's latest litigation is ‘an abuse of process’, according to Lawson Naidoo, from the Council for the Advancement of SA Constitution.

He says it's apparent that the Judge President is attempting to reopen the 12 years of litigation that preceded the JSC's eight to four vote in favour of him facing an impeachment process.

Meanwhile, a report in Die Burger says both the JSC and Speaker of Parliament will oppose Hlophe’s application.

JSC spokesperson Sello Chiloane confirmed that the body had already filed a notice of intention to oppose, while parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said an answering affidavit by Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was being drafted.

Presidential spokesperson Tyrone Seale said Ramaphosa was still studying the application. He could not say when a decision on possible opposition would be made.

Full News24 report (subscription needed)

Full report in Die Burger (subscription needed)