Whenever the situation in SA seems particularly bleak and depressing — sort of like right now — you can trust that there will be a letter circulated by some high-profile figure or an opinion piece from a well-respected journalist about how we should all count our blessings: those blessings typically being a vibrant and robust civil society, an independent and courageous media and, crowning them all, a world-respected and impeccable judicial branch of government.

Many who might know better have been prepared to go along with that characterisation, thinking that SA’s traumatised collective psyche requires such assurance, even if miscast. But I wonder whether, once the process set in motion by Western Cape High Court deputy president Patricia Goliath’s complaint against judge president John Hlophe plays itself out, there will again be ready reference to our judiciary and its management as exemplary features of our democracy.

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