Ramod­ibediRamo thrown­throw life­line

Swazi gov­ern­ment sus­pends em­bat­tled Chief Jus­tice but with­holds his ar­rest war­rant pending out­come of spe­cial in­quiry.

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane

THE Swazi gov­ern­ment yes­ter­day suspended Mathealira Michael Ramod­ibedi as the coun­try’s Chief Jus­tice pending in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the cor­rup­tion charges he is fac­ing.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tions would be con­ducted by the Ju­di­cial Ser­vice Com­mis­sion (JSC), ac­cord­ing to a state­ment re­leased yes­ter­day by Prime Min­is­ter Sibu­siso Dlamini.

The Swazi High Court or­dered Jus­tice Ramod­ibedi’s ar­rest on 17 April 2015 for al­leged abuse of power, but he re­mains free af­ter bar­ri­cad­ing him­self in his man­sion since that day.

How­ever, in an ef­fort to end the 19-day stand­off, the Swazi au­thor­i­ties yes­ter­day suspended Mr Ramod­ibedi, and also tem­po­rar­ily with­held his ar­rest war­rant “un­til the JSC in­ves­ti­ga­tions are com­plete.”

The gov­ern­ment also an­nounced it would then be guided by the JSC on the next course of ac­tion against Mr Ramod­ibedi—a Mosotho who had been Swazi­land’s Chief Jus­tice since 2010 and was Le­sotho’s Court of Ap­peal pres­i­dent from 2008 un­til his res­ig­na­tion last year to avoid im­peach­ment for pos­si­ble abuse of of­fice.

Pre­mier Dlamini noted in yes­ter­day’s state­ment that the “suspended Chief Jus­tice” was now ex­pected to leave his res­i­dence “for the pur­pose of at­tend­ing hear­ings con­ducted by the JSC led by newly ap­pointed Act­ing Chief Jus­tice, Bheki Mapha­lala”.

Mr Dlamini’s state­ment ti­tled ‘ Re­solv­ing our ju­di­cial chal­lenges’, a copy of which the Le­sotho Times man­aged to ob­tain, reads: “His Majesty’s Gov­ern­ment and the na­tion at large, have en­coun­tered un­prece­dented and un­ac­cept­able legal chal­lenges within the ju­di­ciary, which is one of the three arms of gov­ern­ment.

“There has been ex­ten­sive public com­men­tary on legal is­sues. Some of the opin­ions ex­pressed have been con­struc­tive, while oth­ers de­struc­tive and serv­ing only to cloud the real is­sues. His Majesty’s Gov­ern­ment and the Swazi na­tion are res­o­lute in ap­ply­ing cor­rectly and fairly, legal prin­ci­ples as found in our Con­sti­tu­tion, Statutes, Swazi Cus­tom­ary Law and any rel­e­vant and avail­able case law un­der the Com­mon­wealth of Na­tions. The pur­pose of this is to vig­or­ously, ju­di­cially and with­out de­lay, re­store the rule of law and con­fi­dence in our ju­di­cial sys­tems.

“Gov­ern­ment wishes to point out that there are ba­si­cally two legal routes to the res­o­lu­tion of th­ese legal chal­lenges. The first route is the ap­pli­ca­tion of crim­i­nal law, in this case the Pre­ven­tion of Cor­rup­tion Act 2006 where, un­der Sec­tion 33, it pro­vides for the ar­rest of ju­di­cial of­fi­cers such as judges and oth­ers, who are sus­pected to have been in­volved in cor­rupt ac­tiv­i­ties. This can be re­ferred to as the op­tion of ‘ar­rest, and if need be, re­move from of­fice’.

“The sec­ond is the dis­ci­plinary op­tion found un­der Sec­tion 158 of the Con­sti­tu­tion which can be re­ferred to as the ‘re­move from of­fice, and if need be, ar­rest’ op­tion.”

Both op­tions, the prime min­is­ter noted, were val­i­dated from the many cases de­cided un­der the Com­mon­wealth of Na­tions.

He con­tin­ued: “As to which one is more ap­pro­pri­ate de­pends on the cir­cum­stances. If ap­plied cor­rectly, ei­ther op­tion can achieve the de­sired goal. In the present case, gov­ern­ment opted for the ‘ar­rest, and if need be, re­move from of­fice’ op­tion which proved en­tirely sat­is­fac­tory in re­spect of all the ju­di­cial of­fi­cers in ques­tion, with the ex­cep­tion of the Chief Jus­tice who frus­trated the process by lock­ing him­self in his of­fi­cial res­i­dence and re­fused to obey of­fi­cial re­quests to com­ply with a court-sanc­tioned ju­di­cial process.

“With re­gard to the Chief Jus­tice, the Gov­ern­ment shall now switch to the other route which is the ‘re­moval from of­fice and, if need be, ar­rest’ op­tion. The end re­sult will be the same for the ju­di­cial of­fi­cers as the Con­sti­tu­tion states that all are equal be­fore the law.

“In his wis­dom, af­ter care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion, His Majesty has de­cided to ap­proach the mat­ter holis­ti­cally and com­pre­hen­sively in that two of the af­fected judges, namely Jus­tices M M Ramod­ibedi and MS Sime­lane, are hereby placed un­der sus­pen­sion with im­me­di­ate ef­fect. The charges against Jus­tice (Ja­cobus) An­nan­dale are to be with­drawn in view of his pre­pared­ness to act as a State wit­ness.”

Judge An­nan­dale had tried to re­voke war­rants of ar­rest against judges Sime­lane and Ramod­ibedi, which later landed him in trou­ble.

Ac­cord­ing to Prime Min­is­ter Dlamini, King Mswati III had acted “in ac­cor­dance with Sec­tion 158 of the Con­sti­tu­tion, and on the ad­vice of an ad-hoc com­mit­tee con­sist­ing of the Min­is­ter for Jus­tice and Con­sti­tu­tional Af­fairs, Chair­man of the Civil Ser­vice Com­mis­sion, and Pres­i­dent of the Law So­ci­ety of Swazi­land,” and re­ferred the mat­ter to the JSC for in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Mr Dlamini con­tin­ued: “It has also pleased His Majesty the King to ap­point an Act­ing Chief Jus­tice who will act un­til fur­ther no­tice. The Act­ing Chief Jus­tice will have the man­date of re­solv­ing the coun­try’s ju­di­cial chal­lenges as quickly as pos­si­ble in or­der to re­store the con­fi­dence of the public, in­vestors and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity re­gard­ing the cred­i­bil­ity of the ju­di­ciary. It fol­lows that the Act­ing Chief Jus­tice will also hence­forth act as the chair­man of the Ju­di­cial Ser­vice Com­mis­sion, work­ing closely with the Com- mission which will en­sure that it op­er­ates ac­cord­ing to its man­date un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion.”

The pre­mier added Mr Ramod­ibedi’s war­rant of ar­rest “shall be held in abeyance un­til the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the JSC is com­pleted and rec­om­men­da­tion re­gard­ing fur­ther course of ac­tion is con­firmed.”

Mean­while, yes­ter­day’s de­vel­op­ments came af­ter Mr Ramod­ibedi re­port­edly tabled five de­mands for him to leave his res­i­dence.

Ac­cord­ing to The Times of Swazi­land pub­li­ca­tion, Mr Ramod­ibedi de­manded that he should be taken straight to the Ng­wenya Bor­der Gate, en­route to South Africa, where the Swazi po­lice would not have the pow­ers to ar­rest him.

An­other de­mand was that he should reach a “po­lit­i­cal set­tle­ment” with gov­ern­ment in that he would step down as Chief Jus­tice and leave the coun­try.

Other de­mands were that he wanted to meet King Mswati III, his “diplo­matic im­mu­nity” re­spected and to be recog­nised as Chief Jus­tice.

How­ever, de­spite be­ing thrown a life­line, Mr Ramod­ibedi re­mained in his man­sion the whole day yes­ter­day.

JUS­TICE Mathealira Michael ramod­ibedi

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