Michael Ramodibedi, who was sacked as Chief Justice by Swaziland’s autocratic King Mswati III on Wednesday has left the kingdom. It is thought he is returning to his home country of Lesotho after he has received medical attention in South Africa.
The quick departure brings to an end speculation that he might face criminal charges in the courts. In April, a warrant was issued for Ramodibedi’s arrest on 23 charges relating to alleged abuse of power. Later, the warrant was suspended and Ramodibedi faced a hearing by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).
Ramodibedi left his government house in the Swazi capital Mbabane on Friday (19 June 2015) and left Swaziland through the Ngwenya border post into South Africa. Local media reported that he was driven away by his son Napo and escorted to the border post by police.
The JSC heard evidence against Ramodibedi on 9 June 2015. Ramodibedi was not present at the hearing, citing illness. No defence against the allegations was given.
Ramodibedi faced three charges. They were:
1. Abuse of office – In the allocation of the Swaziland Revenue Authority (SRA) matter which was heard to hear a case brought by Ramodibedi against the SRA for taxing his gratuity to the amount of E128 000 (US$12,800).
2. Abuse of office – In the hearing of the Impunzi Wholesalers (PTY) Ltd v The Swaziland Revenue Authority, in which it is alleged wealthy businessmen offered judges E2 million to help them win their case against the SRA involving the importation of goods into the kingdom.
3. Abuse of office in order to achieve an ulterior motive – In the hearing of the Estate Policy matter, where it is alleged Ramodibedi appointed three acting High Court judges to hear the case when their terms of office had expired.
Following the hearing, the JSC reported to King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. The King appoints the government and top judges. Political parties are barred from taking part in elections and all groups advocating for democracy are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.
The King then made the decision to sack his Chief Justice.
SWAZI CHIEF JUSTICE’S HISTORY OF ABUSE
SWAZI KING SACKS CHIEF JUSTICE
ARREST WARRANT FOR CHIEF JUSTICE