Uncertainty over which state department is responsible for judges’ litigation costs has meant a four-month delay to a court case brought by Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe.

This is preventing Parliament from moving ahead with an impeachment vote.

The Sunday Times reports that two years have passed since the JSC found Hlophe guilty of gross misconduct, paving the way for an impeachment process by Parliament, and six months since he was suspended by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

It found that Hlophe had improperly sought to influence the outcome of a pending judgment in the Constitutional Court connected to corruption charges against former President Jacob Zuma.

There is no interdict in place to prevent Parliament, in law, from proceeding with a vote.

However, the chair of the Justice Portfolio Committee, Bulelani Magwanishe, last week said Parliament’s programming committee had decided to await the outcome of his court proceedings.

In May last year, the Western Cape High Court rejected a bid by Hlophe to set aside the JSC’s gross misconduct decision, but granted him leave to appeal against its order.

However, the appeal has lapsed because Hlophe did not file the required documents in the SCA.

‘I cannot afford over R600 000 to print the record needed to prosecute my appeal. The JSC refused to shoulder the costs for the record when approached. The Chief Justice flatly refused to assist and the Minister of Justice maintained a stony silence,’ Hlophe said in an affidavit filed in court last week.

The Sunday Times notes that the affidavit was filed in a further, separate court case, in which Hlophe is challenging his suspension by Ramaphosa.

In that case, still pending in the Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg), he has also asked the court to declare that the state has a constitutional obligation to provide funding for legal representation to judges involved in potential impeachment proceedings.

Hlophe said that, without any notice, he was told by his attorney that the state attorney in Cape Town had been instructed to stop processing his lawyers’ accounts.

The refusal to fund his legal representation was unlawful, he said.

Hlophe said that in the long history of litigation over the 2008 complaint at the root of the case the state had paid the legal costs of the other judges involved, including Constitutional Court Justices Bess Nkabinde and Chris Jafta, who earlier challenged the lawfulness of the Judicial Conduct Tribunal and lost at every step, all the way to the Constitutional Court.

Full Sunday Times report