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Friday, 1 July 2011

SWAZI CHIEF JUSTICE ‘ABUSES POWERS’

Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations

Media statement

1 July 2011

Chief Justice Ramodibedi is an African Aberration

The Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations is outraged at the underhanded, petty and vindictive treatment of Justice Thomas Masuku by Swaziland’s Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi.

It completes an already dreadful pattern of contemptible and obsequious actions and decisions by the Chief Justice who has abused his powers by attacking a free press, a supposedly sovereign parliament and those judges that are prepared to consider the merits of the facts of a case rather than who the litigants are or how close they are to government and the Royal Family.

We were already concerned when in 2009 a man in post independence Africa was happy to call himself Makhulu Baas - an outdated, racist epithet that should never, ever be heard coming from the lips of a liberated African, never mind a Chief Justice. Treating fellow judges in the same language as Boers treated their farmhands was a disgusting insult to Swazi lawyers and judges and showed his contempt for the constitutional norms of an independent judiciary. Without an Independent Judiciary we cannot have a democracy.

This is the Chief Justice who has attempted to stop legitimate criticism of the judiciary by the press and other independent commentators by issuing charges against The Nation Magazine. Charges that they are robustly defending and we, in civil society, will continue to support their defence. Without Free Speech we cannot have democracy.

This is the Chief Justice that was happy to grant an ex parte (one sided) injunction against Parliament by the Prime Minister who was acting as an individual over his unreasonable and unethical attempts at self-enrichment through buying land at a heavy discount when acting as PM. Without a Robust Parliament we cannot have democracy.

The CJ and his Registrar, Lorraine Hlophe, have ridden roughshod over the notions of independence. They have tried to sideline capable judges such as Thomas Masuku and Qinisile Mabuza into trying only criminal cases and not the mixed case load of criminal and civil that in normal Swazi practice every other judge has. Without an Independent Administration of Judiciary we cannot have a Democracy.

The Chief Justice has allowed his position as independent custodian of the law to not only to be questionable but to descend to the lowest ebb, competing with only Zimbabwe in the region.

The charges laid in the attempt to discipline Justice Masuku are so obviously frivolous that they are the signs of a man, an institution and a system of governance that are so out of touch with ordinary people and reality that they have again demonstrated that they never had any credibility as a democratic government.

In one simple move the Chief Justice has attempted to undermine the constitution, parliament and the judiciary. In our opinion, he has brilliantly succeeded in showing to the world the truth of the sham of the Swazi Constitution. It is an instrument of oppression, not transformation and the Chief Justice is proving to be its Chief Whip and Apologist.

Civil Society will support Justice Masuku’s defence in the light of these laughable charges and hope that his victory will spell the end to a style and an era of judicial leadership that can only be considered as a democratic aberration.

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