Min­is­ter hails Ramod­ibedi

Lesotho Times - - Big Interview -

Jus­tice Mathealira Michael Ramod­ibedi has re­fused to sur­ren­der to swazi law-en­force­ment au­thor­i­ties de­spite the coun­try’s High court is­su­ing a war­rant for his ar­rest on 17 April 2015.

Mr Ramod­ibedi was swazi­land’s chief Jus­tice at the time and had trav­elled to south Africa when the court or­dered his ar­rest, al­legedly for abuse of power and de­feat­ing the ends of jus­tice.

Af­ter re­turn­ing to swazi­land the day the Anti-cor­rup­tion tion com­mis­sion ob­tained the war­rant, rrant, Jus­tice Ramod­ibedi sub­se­quently ntly bar­ri­caded him­self in his man­sion nsion and has con­tin­ued to ig­nore re­quests equests for his sur­ren­der.

the swazi gov­ern­ment ment last week suspended the Le­sotho otho na­tional from his post, and al­soo with­held the ar­rest war­rant while also an­nounc­ing a spe­cial tri­bunal l by the Ju­di­cial ser­vice com­mis­sion ssion (Jsc)( Jsc) would hear his side of the story.

Jus­tice Ramod­ibedi was Le­sotho’s court of Ap­peal pres­i­dent from July 2008 un­til his res­ig­na­tion in April 2014 af­ter los­ing a case in which he sought to stop im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings against him.

the lit­i­ga­tion had been in­sti­tuted by then Prime Min­is­ter thomas tha­bane, who wanted him in­ves­ti­gated for pos­si­ble mis­con­duct.

in this wide-rang­ing in­ter­view, Le­sotho Times (LT) re­porter, Lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane, speaks with For­eign Af­fairs and in­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions Min­is­ter tlo­hang sekhamane about gov­ern­ment’s po­si­tion on Mr Ramod­ibedi fol­low­ing ac­cu­sa­tions by some sec­tions of so­ci­ety that it should in­ter­vene in the mat­ter as the con­tin­ued siege — in which the po­lice have been keep­ing a 24-hour vigil on his res­i­dence since 17 April and even af­ter the ar­rest war­rant was put on hold on 6 May — amounted to hu­man rights abuse.

LT: Swazi­land has is­sued a war­rant of ar­rest against a Mosotho, Jus­tice Ramod­ibedi, and to­day, 11 May 2015, marks 17 days since the now suspended Chief Jus­tice locked him­self in his house to avoid detention. It is now com­mon knowl­edge that Le­sotho’s High Com­mis­sioner to Swazi­land, ’Male­jaka Le­tooane, re­cently vis­ited Mba­bane to find out what was go­ing on re­gard­ing Mr Ramod­ibedi. Could you tell us what gov­ern­ment’s po­si­tion is re­gard­ing this is­sue?

Sekhamane: Jus­tice Ramod­ibedi is one of the best lawyers this coun­try has ever pro­duced; he has man­aged to put Le­sotho on the world map. He is one Mosotho who has ex­celled in his ca­reer both as a legal prac­ti­tioner and judge.

if Jus­tice Ramod­ibedi is fac­ing prob­lems in swazi­land, we should not turn a blind eye to who ex­actly this man is. if you are to read all his judg­ments, you will no­tice how spe­cial this man is.

We are talk­ing about a hero when it comes to legal is­sues. He started very well as a young lawyer and worked his way up to be­come Pres­i­dent of the court of Ap­peal of Le­sotho.

He was then ap­pointed chief Jus­tice of the sey­chelles, and then a High court judge in Botswana un­til he be­came chief Jus­tice in swazi­land. this is a man of out­stand­ing char­ac­ter.

Le­sotho should be very proud of Jus­tice Ramod­ibedi. if, as Ba­sotho, we are asked to as­sign some­one with spe­cial legal skills out­side the coun­try, it should def­i­nitely be Jus­tice Ramod­ibedi. LT: But if he is so knowl­edge­able about the law as you say, why is he de­fy­ing a clear legal re­quire­ment in Swazi­land by re­fus­ing to sur­ren­der to the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties?

Sekhamane: the swazi gov­ern­ment, through its law-en­force­ment and in­ves­ti­ga­tion agen­cies, be­lieves Jus­tice Ramod­ibedi should stand trial for cer­tain charges. As Le­sotho, we do not have any ar­gu­ment with that.

We can­not stop swazi­land from do­ing so be­cause we don’t know any­thing about those charges. Jus­tice Ramod­ibedi tells us while he is will­ing to be pro­ce­du­rally taken to court and stand trial, he is against be­ing ar­rested.

And that is where the re­sis­tance comes in. He says i do not de­serve this. He says i am still the chief Jus­tice and that sta­tus, on its own, does not al­low that he should be treated like this.

He feels he is be­ing ha­rassed and em­bar­rassed for a man of his sta­tus. Jus­tice Ramod­ibedi was not sent or as­signed by Le­sotho to swazi­land. He found a job there by him­self as an in­di­vid­ual.

there is no way that we can in­ter­fere by way of try­ing to dis­miss the pur­ported charges against him. so now when it be­came ob­vi­ous that the de­ci­sion was to have him ar­rested, he per­sis­tently re­fused to come out of his home.

LT: The Swazi au­thor­i­ties ap­proached the Le­sotho gov­ern­ment over Jus­tice Ramod­ibedi, and wrote a let­ter to Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili seek­ing his in­ter­ven­tion in the stand­off. What be­came of that re­quest?

Sekhamane: As a mat­ter of fact, swazi au­thor­i­ties had not had a chance to of­fi­cially in­form us about Jus­tice Ramod­ibedi’s is­sue. As gov­ern­ment, we re­ceived in­for­ma­tion about what was hap­pen­ing with Jus­tice Ramod­ibedi through other chan­nels and we took the ini­tia­tive to com­mu­ni­cate with swazi­land and asked what was go­ing on.

We in­formed the swazi gov­ern­ment that we had heard that the chief Jus­tice was in trou­ble and re­quested of­fi­cial con­fir­ma­tion on this.

This very of­fice of mine (Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs) is the one which com­mu­ni­cated with swazi­land on be­half of the gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho.

In­deed, they con­firmed what we had heard and ac­cepted they were sup­posed to have of­fi­cially in­formed us about it. it was then that we were of­fi­cially in­formed that Jus­tice Ramod­ibedi had locked him­self in his house to avoid ar­rest.

Now, the swazi au­thor­i­ties be­lieve that it is not ac­cept­able for them to break into Jus­tice Ramod­ibedi’s res­i­dence and ar­rest him.

And as we speak, swazi­land has de­cided not to ar­rest Jus­tice Ramod­ibedi but let him go to court over the charges — the same way he wanted things to hap­pen. Re­mem­ber he main­tains that he is not re­fus­ing to go to court, but re­fuses to be ar­rested.

He is not sure what will hap­pen to him if he is ar­rested. He could be hand­cuffed. He could be thrown into the back of a po­lice pick-up truck.

He could be thrown into a po­lice hold­ing cell. And he feels that it is un­ac­cept­able for him to go through all that.

LT: So where does the gov­ern- ment of Le­sotho fea­ture in all this, since you say Jus­tice Ramod­ibedi went to Swazi­land in his in­di­vid­ual ca­pac­ity?

Sekhamane: As we com­mu­ni­cated with Jus­tice Ramod­ibedi, he told us how he un­der­stands this whole saga. My in­ter­est in this is­sue was not so much about his sta­tus in swazi­land, but be­cause he is a Mosotho; it is my of­fice’s con­cern if he is hav­ing prob­lems in an­other coun­try.

that’s why last month, we sent the Le­sotho High com­mis­sioner to swazi­land, Mrs ’ Male­jaka Le­tooane, who is based in Pre­to­ria, to that coun­try.

i in­structed her to go and check his con­di­tion, and also hear his side of the story and opin­ion. the com­mis­sioner was also sup­posed to find out if Jus­tice Ramod­ibedi’s wife, Mrs ’ Manapo, and their chil­dren, were safe.

this was af­ter i had been told that elec­tric­ity and wa­ter to their house, had been cut-off.

My feel­ing was it was un­for­tu­nate and un­ac­cept­able if it was true. Jus­tice Ramod­ibedi has to be pros­e­cuted by the courts of law, not the po­lice.

i in­structed Mrs Le­tooane to make a re­quest to the swazi au­thor­i­ties to un­lock the wa­ter and elec­tric­ity for him. i fur­ther told the com­mis­sioner that she should tell Jus­tice Ramod­ibedi that the gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho was be­hind him.

We will as­sist him wher­ever it is pos­si­ble to do so, just the way we would if any other Mosotho was stranded else­where. But at the same time, i made it clear that we were not go­ing to in­ter­fere with the case and the charges he faces.

How­ever, we would also not al­low his fun­da­men­tal hu­man rights to be vi­o­lated. i also com­mu­ni­cated this with my For­eign Af­fairs coun­ter­part in swazi­land.

i asked them to re­spect this man’s rights and those of his fam­ily. they should re­mem­ber they are not charg­ing Mrs ’Manapo and the chil­dren, but Jus­tice Ramod­ibedi only. so the fam­ily should not be di­rectly af­fected by this.

Not only that, but they should also re­spect his dig­nity in re­la­tion to the high po­si­tion the they gave him in swazi­land.

LT: How did the Swaz­iSwa au­thor­i­ties take th­ese reque re­quests?

Sekhamane: they list lis­tened to us. the peo­ple of swazil swazi­land re­spect us a lot, and they have shown their re­spect in deal­ing with the is­sue. i don’t have any doubt that swazi­land tried to deal with Jus­tice Ramod­ibedi’s is­sue with­wit dig­nity. Right now, i am pray­ing to God to assi as­sist and have Jus­tice Ramod­ibedi taken to c court for jus­tice to p pre­vail once and for a all.

LT: The op­po­si­tion is accu ac­cus­ing gov­ern­ment of sid­ing with Ju Jus­tice Ramod­ibed mod­ibedi in this case, wit with a view of bring­ing him home with­out f fac­ing trial in Swazi­land.Swazil Spec­u­la­tion is also rife that you w want to re­place the cur cur­rent Pres­i­dent of the CourtCo of Ap­peal, Dr Kanan Kananelo Mos­ito, with Jus­tice Ra Ramod­ibedi. What is your re­sponser to th­ese claims?

Sekhamane: i will put it this way; i am right in the cen­tre of the gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho and what this means is ev­ery de­ci­sion taken at any level, i am in a po­si­tion to know.

it is not true that the gov­ern­ment in­tends to put Jus­tice Ramod­ibedi in any po­si­tion, in­clud­ing that of the Pres­i­dent of the court of Ap­peal.

that has never been dis­cussed at any level by the gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho. that al­le­ga­tion is a bla­tant lie. And i will re­peat this: the stance of the gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho con­cern­ing Jus­tice Ramod­ibedi is that he is a Mosotho who found him­self a job in swazi­land.

He is not a Le­sotho diplo­mat. He holds the po­si­tion of chief Jus­tice in that coun­try and we can­not turn a blind eye to the fact that be­ing in that po­si­tion, he can­not be treated like some­body em­ployed as a cleaner in swazi­land.

it both­ers the gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho if a Mosotho who holds such a noble po­si­tion in swazi­land can be ha­rassed. the sta­tus of be­ing chief Jus­tice calls for the two coun­tries to work to­gether on this mat­ter.

Jus­tice Ramod­ibedi did not only hold such a high of­fice in Swazi­land; he was also the Pres­i­dent of the court of Ap­peal here.

We went to swazi­land to ver­ify that the per­son we had been talk­ing to on the tele­phone was in­deed Jus­tice Ramod­ibedi, and se­condly, to check whether he was still in good health, like i have pre­vi­ously men­tioned.

And we are sat­is­fied on that area. We are con­vinced he was not tor­tured. What we are ex­pect­ing from swazi­land is to place Jus­tice Ramod­ibedi be­fore courts and let the law take its course.

And if he is guilty, he should be pun­ished based on the pro­vi­sions of the law. it is not that we want to give him sup­port out­side the perime­tres of the law.

even to­day, we main­tain that his rights should not be vi­o­lated. We will not steal Jus­tice Ramod­ibedi from swazi­land.

We can­not make him or help him run away from the cases he faces. And like i said, we are not say­ing we have a job for him here in Le­sotho.

For­eign Af­fairs and in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions Min­is­ter Tlo­hang Sekhamane For­mer Court of Ap­peal Pres­i­dent Jus­tice ramod­ibedi

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lesotho

© PressReader. All rights reserved.