Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Lesotho’s top judge loses bid to stall probe

Five judges of Lesotho's appeal court have found that the president of that court was not treated unfairly by the appointment of a tribunal to investigate whether he should be impeached.

Judge Michael Ramodibedi, who is president of Lesotho's appeal court and the chief justice of Swaziland, had claimed that natural justice demanded he should have been given a hearing before the tribunal was appointed.

Lesotho Prime Minister Tom Thabane approached King Letsie III of Lesotho last year with a request that he appoint a tribunal to investigate several allegations made about Ramodibedi. Under the Constitution, the king is obliged to set up a tribunal if requested to do so by the prime minister. He must act on its findings and either dismiss or reinstate Ramodibedi, depending on the tribunal's recommendations.

Ramodibedi's appeal, widely seen as a last attempt to prevent the tribunal going ahead, was argued in Maseru last month before five South African judges. They had been asked to hear the matter to avoid any suggestion of bias.

Judge Fritz Brand, of South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal, dismissed the appeal. The judgment was unanimous.

Brand confirmed that Ramodibedi had not been given an opportunity to be heard before the decision was taken to appoint the tribunal. But this did not mean that the appointment infringed his right to fair procedure.

He said the courts were increasingly accepting "a more supple and encompassing duty to act fairly" rather than, as previously, the insistence on the rule of a formal hearing at which the affected person could appear and give his or her side of things. Brand said that, given the facts of the case, Ramodibedi "must still persuade us that in all the circumstances the treatment meted out to him was unfair".

Reputation
The "potentially adverse effect" of the tribunal's appointment was limited to his reputation. And if the tribunal found in his favour, the negative impact on his reputation was not likely to be permanent.

On the other hand, most of the allegations of misconduct made about Ramodibedi were already in the public domain. For example, "unseemly incidents" resulting from the conflict between Ramodibedi and Lesotho's chief justice Mahapela Lehohla, who has resigned, had been played out in public. Thus his reputation "was already tarnished before the request for the appointment of a tribunal".

"It seems to me that the only way to salvage his reputation is for [him] to successfully refute the allegations before the tribunal."

The court added that the "removal of uncertainty surrounding [Ramo­di­bedi's reputation] is not in his interest only". It also affected the "unconditional public respect for the integrity of the judiciary without which the court simply cannot function".

The Lesotho government wants Ramodibedi to be investigated for fraud and financial irregularities, and political improprieties.

There has been no announcement since the judgment about when the tribunal is likely to start its work.

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Carmel Rickard
Guest Author

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

Fears of violence persist a year after the murder of...

The court battle to stop coal mining in rural KwaZulu-Natal has heightened the sense of danger among environmental activists

Data shows EFF has lower negative sentiment online among voters...

The EFF has a stronger online presence than the ANC and Democratic Alliance

More top stories

Kenya’s beach boys fall into sex tourism, trafficking

In the face of their families’ poverty, young men, persuaded by the prospect of wealth or education, travel to Europe with their older female sponsors only to be trafficked for sex

High court reinstates Umgeni Water board

The high court has ruled that the dissolution of the water entity’s board by Minister Lindiwe Sisulu was unfair and unprocedural

Mkhize throws the book at the Special Investigating Unit

It’s a long shot at political redemption for the former health minister and, more pressingly, a bid to avert criminal charges
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×