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Monday, 20 April 2015

SWAZI MINISTER OF JUSTICE ARRESTED


Swaziland’s Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Sibusiso Shongwe was arrested on Monday (20 April 2015), days after arrest warrants were issued against the kingdom’s Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi and High Court Judge Mpendulo Simelane.

Both Ramodibedi and Simelane have also been taken into custody. They face a string of charges, including abuse of power.

Details of the allegations against Shongwe have not been released, but he has been at the centre of an Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) investigation relating to deposits of E2 million (US$200,000) into one of his firm’s bank accounts.

The Chief Justice had dismissed an arrest warrant requested by the ACC against Shongwe last week.

The ACC alleged that in December 2014 a total of E2 million cash was deposited into the minister’s law firm’s trust account. The ACC wrote to Shongwe to ask where the money came from but he did not respond.

The ACC also alleged that E1.3 million of the money had been disbursed from the account. 

In a letter to the ACC, Shongwe said the money was being held on trust for a client of his law firm.

Shongwe is also a close ally of the Chief Justice. Ramodibedi and Shongwe are reported to both be at odds with Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini. Shongwe alleged that at one Cabinet meeting the Prime Minister threatened to kill him.

Picture: PUDEMO
Justice Minister Sibusiso Shongwe, at a police station in Mbabane, Swaziland, after his arrest





See also

SWAZI COURT WAITS FOR KING’S ORDER

ARRESTED CJ TO APPEAR IN DOCK

CJ HAS HISTORY OF ABUSE OF POWER

CJ BID TO CANCEL OWN ARREST WARRANT

ARREST WARRANT FOR CHIEF JUSTICE

CJ AND JAILED JOURNALISTS

ARRESTED SWAZI CJ TO APPEAR IN DOCK



The Swaziland Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi is expected in court on Tuesday (21 April 2015) at the start of a process that could see him charged with 23 offences, including abuse of power.

An arrest warrant for Ramodibedi was made on Friday (17 April 2015) but he barricaded himself in his home to evade police. 

A warrant for the arrest of High Court Judge Mpendulo Simelane was made at the same time.

Armed riot police stood by outside Ramodibedi’s house for two days waiting for the order to enter, but it never came.

It was reported that water and electricity supplies were cut off at the house in an attempt to flush Ramodibedi out of his home.

Unconfirmed reports on social media said that Ramodibedi was hoping that King Mswati III would order the arrest warrant to be torn up. Instead, it is reported the King, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, confirmed he should be arrested.

If this proves correct, it will surprise many observers. The King personally re-appointed Ramodibedi to office in contravention of the kingdom’s constitution. It states that the Chief Justice should be a Swazi national, but Ramodibedi was born in Lesotho.

Ramodibedi has been a staunch supporter of the King and even went to the extent in 2011 of issuing a directive that the King was immune from any claims made directly or indirectly against him in a court of law. This legally placed the King above the law.

Ramodibedi faces at least 23 charges, according to the Observer Saturday, a newspaper in effect owned by the King. 

The newspaper 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 on 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.’

See also

CJ HAS HISTORY OF ABUSE OF POWER

CJ BID TO CANCEL OWN ARREST WARRANT

ARREST WARRANT FOR CHIEF JUSTICE

CJ AND JAILED JOURNALISTS

Sunday, 19 April 2015

CJ HAS HISTORY OF ABUSE OF POWER



An arrest warrant has been issued for Swaziland’s Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi on 23 charges, including abuse of power.

Ramodibedi has been in the spotlight for a number of years over the way he runs the Swazi judiciary on behalf of King Mswati III, the absolute monarch in Swaziland, who appointed him to office. 

Many allegations of abuse of power have been made from lawyers within Swaziland and also by the international human rights community. Here are some of the highlights from the past four years.

In May 2014, two Supreme Court judges reportedly threatened to resign if a warrant issued by Ramodibedi for the arrest of three High Court judges who were critical of him was served, Ramodibedi reportedly issued the warrants but the Swazi police did not make the arrests. 

The three judges were Mumcy Dlamini, Bheki Maphalala and Mbutfo Mamba.

Reportedly, arrest warrants were issued because the CJ felt the judges were ‘ignoring his orders and bringing the High Court into disrepute’.

It was reported at the time that should the warrants be effected and the judges arrested, the CJ planned to appoint interim judges himself.

This was not an isolated incident of abuse of power. In a report on Swaziland covering the year 2011, Human Rights Watch stated, ‘Serious deficiencies in Swaziland’s judicial system persist. In an ominous precedent for the independence of the judiciary, Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi in August suspended Justice Thomas Masuku for insubordination and for insulting the king, among other charges.’

It added, ‘On August 11 [2011] Justice Masuku appeared before the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), whose six members are appointed by the king. On September 27 [2011] the king relieved Judge Masuku of his duties for “serious misbehavior.” Justice Masuku had in the past made several rulings in favor of human rights.’

In the case of Masuku, Ramodibedi acted as judge, prosecutor and witness in the case he himself brought.

David Matse, the Swaziland Minister for Justice, was fired from his job because he refused to sign the dismissal letter for Masuku. 

Human Rights Watch added, ‘Control over the daily allocation of cases for hearings, including urgent ones, has been placed solely in the hands of the chief justice, creating what is perceived by lawyers as an unacceptable bias in the administration of justice. In August [2011] the Law Society of Swaziland instituted a boycott of the courts to protest these developments and the failure of the authorities to hear its complaints regarding the running of the courts, including the chief justice’s allocation of cases. On September 21[2011], Law Society members delivered a petition to the minister of justice calling for action to address the decisions of the chief justice and the general administration of justice in the court system.’

In August 2011, Swazi police in bullet-proof vests and armed with shotguns and tear gas canisters invaded a meeting of lawyers in the Swaziland High Court, which had been called to discuss their on-going campaign to get Ramodibedi removed from office. Reports in the Swazi media said the Chief Justice himself ordered the police to break up the meeting.

In September 2011, the Centre For Human Rights, Swaziland, reported, ‘Swaziland lawyers embarked on the court boycott after the CJ issued a series of unlawful practice directives, to all courts of the land, directing them not to admit certain cases. In one directive, the CJ instructed the Registrar that cases would only be allocated to judges by the CJ himself, and no other officer. In another practice directive, issued in June 2011, the CJ instructed the Registrar and officers of all courts in the land that cases involving the king should not be admitted. These regrettable actions of the CJ were largely viewed as interference not only with the administration of the courts, but also as a denial of the fundamental right to access justice.’

In November 2011, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) reported, ‘Lawyers have been boycotting the courts for almost four months in protest at the maladministration of justice in the country by the incumbent Chief Justice, Michael Ramodibedi. But this week, they upped the pressure on the Chief Justice by staging a mass walk-out of the Supreme Court. This left all suspects and people with civil cases with no legal representation.

‘But astonishingly, the Chief Justice ordered that all cases be heard with or without the lawyers. This, as some have already observed, is the height of injustice. The Chief Justice is also on record as praising people who represented themselves saying that they actually argue “much better than the lawyers”.

‘Subsequent to the directive to proceed without the lawyers, Ramodibedi then went another step further - banning all lawyers from setting foot in the High Court. A heavily armed police contingent has been posted in and around the High Court premises and only government lawyers and people with cases have been allowed to enter. Banned from meeting at the High Court, the lawyers opted for a very innovative strategy, using their vehicles to “march” through the capital city in protest and brining the city to a stand-still - much to the consternation of the police.’

See also

CJ BID TO CANCEL OWN ARREST WARRANT

ARREST WARRANT FOR CHIEF JUSTICE

CJ AND JAILED JOURNALISTS

‘CJ ARREST WARRANTS FOR CRITIC JUDGES’

DOES CHIEF JUSTICE KNOW THE LAW?

JUDICIARY BID TO STOP MEDIA SCRUTINY

TOP JUDGE ATTACKS PRESS FREEDOM

CHIEF JUSTICE THREATENS MEDIA

SWAZI JUDGE FIRED FOR ‘DISRESPECT’

AMNESTY: REINSTATE JUDGE MASUKU

SWAZI LAWYERS MARCH FOR JUDGE

SWAZI KING ABANDONS RULE OF LAW

SWAZI MINISTER OF JUSTICE FIRED

SWAZI KING FIRES CRITICAL JUDGE

AMNESTY ON SWAZI JUDICIAL SYSTEM

SWAZI CHIEF JUSTICE MUST GO – SCCCO

SWAZI LAWYERS CHARGE CHIEF JUSTICE

SWAZI LAWYERS BOYCOTT COURTS

SWAZI CHIEF JUSTICE ‘ABUSES POWERS’