Some people have got all the luck in the world. That, however, like any other thing in this Godly-made planet, has its day. And Lesotho’s Court of Appeal President Justice Michael Ramodibedi is one such person.
Sunday Express newspaper reported that justice Ramodibedi holds three different jobs and is paid by all three. Ramodibedi not only is he President of Lesotho’s Court of Appeal, but that he is also a Chief Justice of Swaziland and sits onBotswana’s Supreme Court bench. But this would soon end as about 100 lawyers in a special meeting held by Law Society of Swaziland apparently passed a resolution to push for his suspension.
The newspaper quoted Swaziland Observer newspaper saying the meeting was also attended by lawyers from private law firms, the Director of Public Prosecutions Office (DPP), Attorney General’s (AG) chambers and corporate world. The lawyers accused Justice Ramodibedi of bringing the judiciary into disrepute after he suspended senior High Court judge Thomas Masuku for allegedly insulting King Mswati III, Africa’s last absolute monarch, in a 2010 judgment, according to Sunday Express.
It said a fortnight earlier, Justice Ramodibedi had suspended Justice Masuku and charged him with 12 offences which, among others, included having used the phrase “forked-tongued” in a 2010 ruling involving King Mswati III.
Justice Ramodibedi is further reported to have accused Justice Masuku of disrespecting him and supporting regime change forces that are calling for democratic reforms inSwaziland. He was further accused of not being “fit” to be chief justice.
Law society president, Titus Mlangeni, told the Sunday Express that they were planning to challenge Justice Ramodibedi’s decision to suspend the judge. He said they were drafting court papers seeking the High Court to set aside Justice Ramodibedi’s decision to suspend Justice Masuku.
Mlangeni said: “we are basically challenging his (Justice Ramodibedi’s) administrative decision to suspend Justice Masuku on allegations of misconduct. “We have not yet filed the application in the High Court because we are still preparing papers as well as instructing a lawyer to handle the case”.
He hoped “to file soon because we believe it needs urgent attention” and that the law society was busy compiling complaints against Justice Ramodibedi and “they keep coming forth”.
On allegations that Justice Ramodibedi should leave because he was not fit for the job Mlangeni said: “Well that’s another way to look at it but I can only say it is improper to disclose that information now” and adding that his suspension “is only a sign of a bigger picture”.
Justice Ramodibedi was brought by King Mswati III to become chief justice and one of his first acts was an order preventing anyone from “directly or indirectly” suing the king and such a decision was apparently criticised by lawyers in that country.
Attorney Thuli Makama was quoted as saying that under RamodibediSwaziland’s judiciary had lost integrity. Makana said: “You see in-fighting amongst judges. We are losing the integrity of the courts in the eyes of the public”.
Justice Ramodibedi also came under fire for his frequent absences from the country.
When the row over his decision to suspend Justice Masuku erupted he reportedly was inBotswanahearing cases in the Supreme Court.
The chairman of Swaziland’s Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO), Musa Hlope, was quoted in media reports as saying Justice Masuku’s suspension was outrageous. Hlope said “if one reads these charges you can see somebody is painting (Justice) Masuku as a bad guy in the eyes of the king”.
SCCCO once accused the President Justice of allowing “his position as independent custodian of the law to not only be questionable but to descend to the lowest ebb, competing with only Zimbabwe in the region”. It said that the President Justice had in its opinion “brilliantly succeeded in showing to the world the truth of the sham of the Swazi Constitution” and accused him of being “an instrument of oppression, not transformation and the chief justice is proving to be its chief whip and apologist”.
These developments over Justice Ramodibedi come at a time when King Mswati III’s government is battling to secure a bailout fromSouth Africa to deal with the financial crisis that has brought government operations to a screeching halt. The country is said to be struggling to pay salaries or keep state hospitals functioning.
Swaziland has apparently since this year been faced with a series of rare protests by civil servants who were angered by moves to slash their salaries.
According to Sunday Express, King Mswati III was crowned in 1986 at the age of 18, succeeding his long-serving father King Sobhuza II.
This job – holding three Court judging positions and in three different countries – can only happen when you are in African.