Warrants were issued for the re-arrest of the editor of the Nation magazine Bheki Makhubu and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko in Swaziland on Wednesday (9 April 2014).
It happened when they attended the High Court to attempt to have Judge Mpendulo Simelane stand down from hearing a case against them. Both men are charged with contempt of court after they wrote articles in the Nation magazine critical of the Swaziland Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi.
Instead, Judge Simelane issued warrants for their arrests.
Makhubu and Maseko had previously been remanded to jail by Ramodibedi, but on Sunday after 20 days they were released by the High Court and had been free since then.
Judge Simelane said Wednesday no liberation warrants had been issued after the High Court judgement on Sunday. This meant that the men had not been lawfully released.
At the centre of the case is Ramodibedi, who on 17 March issued warrants for the arrest of Makhubu and Maseko and then sent them to jail on remand. He did this in closed court without lawyers present.
High Court Judge Mumcy Dlamini in a judgement that took her less than a minute to read out, released the men. On Monday the office of the Attorney General appealed the High Court judgment. This should be heard by the Supreme Court in May.
In her written judgement, Dlamini said that Ramodibedi had sent the men to jail without hearing arguments or submissions why they should not be.
She added that the law in Swaziland stated that it was a magistrate’s job to issue arrest warrants.
She said the affidavits used to support the warrant of arrest were ‘incompetent in law’ because they were raised by the Chief Justice’s clerk, who was representing the Chief Justice. The Chief Justice claimed to be injured by the contents of the articles the two accused men wrote.
Judge Dlamini said, ‘A person attesting an affidavit must be completely objective and have no interest of any kind in the contents or input of that affidavit.’
She went on to say that the hearing should not have been heard in the Chief Justice’s chambers.
‘A matter of such magnitude viz. incarceration of persons ought to have been deliberated fully in an open court.’
DOES CHIEF JUSTICE KNOW THE LAW?