A warrant for the arrest of Swaziland’s Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi on 23 charges including abuse of power has been issued, according to reports in a newspaper owned by King Mswati III.
The King, the absolute monarch in Swaziland, personally appointed Ramodibedi to office.
The news follows 48 hours of intense speculation on social media that Ramodibedi had fled Swaziland into neighbouring South Africa to escape arrest.
The King in effect owns the Observer Saturday newspaper, which ran the story and it is inconceivable it would have published the report without the King’s permission.
The newspaper reported on Saturday (18 April 2015) that the warrant was granted by High Court Principal Judge Justice Stanley Maphalala.
A warrant for the arrest of High Court Judge Mpendulo Simelane was made at the same time.
The Observer reported, ‘Their charges are that of conflict of interest, defeating the ends of justice and abuse of power in that the Chief Justice Ramodibedi allocated his case of contesting his E128,000 [US$12,800] gratuity against the Swaziland Revenue Authority (SRA) to Justice Mpendulo Simelane in full knowledge that Judge Simelane in his then capacity as Registrar of the High Court, made written and oral representations on the chief justice’s behalf to the SRA.
‘Their act has eroded the confidence of the public in the country’s justice system. The Chief Justice, who had gone on a short trip to South Africa, returned to the country yesterday [Friday 17 April 2015] afternoon, amid reports that the ACC [Anti-Corruption Commission] wanted to get a warrant of arrest against him and Judge Mpendulo.’
The Observer on Saturday reported that at least 23 charges had been prepared.
According to the Observer, among charges ‘likely to be faced by the CJ’ are:
‘The Chief Justice Mathealira Michael Ramodibedi is guilty of serious misbehaviour in that;
‘He unlawfully recorded a private telephonic discussion between himself and the prime minister;
‘In that he allocated his case against the Swaziland Revenue Authority to Justice Mpendulo Simelane in full knowledge that Judge Simelane in his capacity as Registrar of the High Court, made written and oral representations on the Chief Justice’s behalf to SRA. By doing so, the CJ eroded the confidence of the public in the country’s justice system;
‘Contrary to the integrity expected of a judicial officer, by the Judicial Code of Ethics for the Judiciary of Swaziland, he directed that the application of Wezzy Ndzimadze and others vs Titselo Ndzimandze and others be heard and framed the issues for resolution by the Court in circumstances where the applicants had withdrawn their application and the matter was not pending before him;
‘In that he made acting appointments, in terms of Section 153 (5) of the Constitution, of JM Mavuso and BS Dlamini to hear the case of Nkosinathi Simelane and others vs minister of finance and others in which he had a direct pecuniary interest, in the matter, in circumstances where he was not entitled to appoint the judges for the specific matter;
‘In that he made an acting appointment to the Supreme Court bench, in terms of Section 153 (5) of the Constitution of Justice Annandale to hear the case of Attorney General vs Nkosinathi Simelane and others, a case in which he had a direct pecuniary interest.
‘In that in his capacity as head of the judiciary, he allowed Acting Justice Annandale to sign on behalf of other judges in matters of: Attorney General vs Nkosinathi Simelane and others, Attorney General vs Wezzy Ndzimandze and others and Majalimane Zulu v Nhlangano Town Council;
‘In that contrary to convention he failed to cause the appointment of acting judges to be published in the government gazette;
‘In that he brought the judiciary into disrepute by permitting the registrar of the High Court to publicly address the Executive in a language whose tone and manner was inconsistent with dignity of the judicial office;
‘In that he directed the registrar of the Supreme Court to submit claims for remuneration allowance for Supreme Court justices for May and November 2014 sessions for which justices were not entitled;
‘In that contrary to the integrity expected of a judicial officer, in January 2015, he refused to submit to the Executive arm of Government a report of an accident in which his official motor vehicle was involved;
‘In that he refused to allocate houses to High Court judges at the judicial complex, until he was ordered to do so by the highest authority in the land [the King]. As a result, a government house occupied by Madam Justice Mabuza and neighbouring government houses could not be demolished to make way for the construction of the building that will house the UN Agencies in Swaziland. The construction was delayed by three months;
‘In that he abused his powers by authorising the ACC [Anti-Corruption Commission] to enter into contract for the provision of security services without the contract being submitted to the AG for vetting as required by the Constitution;
‘In that as chairman of the JSC usurped the power of other institutions by drawing contracts for the deputy ACC commissioners when their mandate begins and ends with recommendation of appointments to His Majesty the King and disciplinary procedures upon being reported to by the commissioner;
‘As chairman of the JSC engaged Lilian Zwane as Deputy Commissioner Operations of the ACC for a third term in breach of legislation which provides for a maximum of two terms;
‘In that he failed to take action when the ACC commissioner filed a report on the misconduct of the Deputy Commissioner Operations, Zwane;
‘In that he failed to authorise the payments of salaries to the staff of Swazilii;
‘In that he nominated the most junior substantive judge of the High Court to the COMESA Court of Justice ahead of senior and more experienced judges. The chief justice’s conduct caused the country humiliation at a continental stage where the nomination of the junior judge had to be withdrawn and replaced at a late hour.’