As an arrest warrant is issued against Swaziland’s Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi for alleged abuse of power, two journalists remain in jail in the kingdom for writing and publishing articles alleging the same thing against him.
Bhkeki Makhubu, the editor of the Nation magazine, and human rights lawyer and writer Thulani Maseko, were jailed for two years for contempt of court in July 2014 after they wrote and published articles critical of the Swazi judiciary. In particular they drew attention to Ramodibedi’s abuse of power.
Ramodibedi, according to the Observer Saturday newspaper in Swaziland, now faces at least 23 charges, some including abuse of power.
In his judgement, High Court Judge Mpendulo Simelane cited a passage that appeared in the February 2014 edition of the Nation. The words published in the Nation now take on a new significance.
It was these words that sent the two journalists to jail for two years.
‘Like Caiaphus, Ntate Justice Ramodibedi seems to have chosen to use his higher station in life to bully those in a weaker position as a means to consolidate his power. Like Caiaphus, Ntate Justice Ramodibedi seems to be in a path to create his legacy by pushing the small man so that he can sleep easy at night well knowing that he has sent a message to all who dare cross him that they will be put in their right place. Let us not forget that Caiaphus was not only the high priest of Judea. He was the chief justice of all Jewish law and had only the immense power to pass judgment on anyone among his people who transgressed the law. Ditto Ntate Justice Ramodibedi in Swaziland.’
The passage continued, ‘Like Caiaphus, our Chief Justice “massaged” the law to suit his own agenda.
‘What is incredible about the similarities between Caiaphus and Ntate Justice Ramodibedi is that both men had willing servants to help them break the law.’
They were convicted and jailed at Swaziland High Court by Judge Mpendulo Simelane, who along with the kingdom’s Chief Justice Ramodibedi also has an arrest warrant issued against him on charges of abuse of power.
Judge Simelane had been subjected to some criticism since his appointment to the High Court by Chief Justice Ramodibedi in February 2014. The Sunday Observer, a newspaper in Swaziland in effect owned by King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, said Simelane lacked the necessary experience.
The Law Society of Swaziland said it had tried to register an application challenging the appointment of Simelane as a judge of the High Court, but the Registrar of the High Court refused to accept it due to pressure from Ramodibedi.
ARREST WARRANT FOR CHIEF JUSTICE