The Law Society of Swaziland has made wide-ranging accusations against Michael Ramodibedi, the Swazi Chief Justice.
It has filed a total of eight complaints to the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), including the accusations of sexual harassment reported yesterday (14 July 2011).
The Law Society wants Ramodibedi removed from office with immediate effect.
The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, reports today (15 July 2011), he is also alleged to have travelled extensively to Pretoria and Pietermaritzburg in South Africa, being chauffeured by a civil servant for private and unauthorised trips.
The Law Society says that in all the trips to South Africa, the chauffeur was never paid any sleep-out allowances or stipends for being out of the country.
The Times reports the Law Society saying, ‘The Chief Justice has acted in breach of his duty of good faith towards the judiciary by determining and setting excessive and unjustifiable allowances for members of the Judiciary sitting as Judges of the Industrial Court of Appeal.’
The Times reports, ‘Ramodibedi is further accused of abusing state resources in that he rejected a Mercedes Benz allocated to him and appropriated himself a BMW 750i. The Law Society alleges that the BMW 7series was leased from the Central Transport Administration (CTA). It argues that Ramodibedi has breached his conditions of service which entitle him to only one vehicle.
‘The society alleges that Ramodibedi used government vehicles and the one officially allocated to him, in his unauthorised trips to South Africa. It says there is evidence that he has treated his chauffeur inhumanely and degradingly in the various trips to South Africa.’
The lawyers also accuse Ramodibedi of ‘frustrating impartial and transparent access to the courts,’ through directives he made and he has breached his powers.
One such directive was when Ramodibedi barred lawyers from instituting any court proceedings against King Mswati III either directly or indirectly. He further directed the office of the Registrar of the High Court Mpendulo Simelane to refuse to accept any summons that are against the king, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
Another directive was that all court applications had to be first checked by Ramodibedi and he specifically allocated them to a judge.
‘The Chief Justice has through this directive sought to infringe upon the constitutional right of parties to approach the court in a fair and impartial manner and has sought to be the sole determinant as to the ‘appropriate’ judge to hear the matter. In this respect, the Chief Justice has usurped the functions and powers of the Registrar of the High Court of Swaziland,’ the lawyers say in a letter sent to the JSC.
The lawyers are also complaining that Ramodibedi went against the provisions of the Swazi Constitution when he suspended High Court Judge Thomas Masuku on12 charges of alleged serious misbehaviour. Masuku is alleged to have insulted the King in one of his judgments and to have had illicit affairs with a female judge of the High Court.
The lawyers argue that the Constitution protects judicial officers from being charged for any action done in the execution of his duties. They say Judge Masuku delivered the judgment in the course of his duties.
In another complaint, Ramodibedi is being questioned on why he issued a warrant of arrest for suspended Judge President of the Industrial Court Sifiso Nsibande.
It is alleged that Ramodibedi issued the warrant in May 2010 leading to the arrest of Nsibande, something which was against the provisions of the country’s Constitution.
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