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 to the M&G

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.

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

SANDF’s ‘dignity’ comes with a R200mn price tag

Find out about the SANDF’s new uniform, which is costing taxpayers close to R200-million, while mission-critical equipment is not maintained

Roshan Morar’s fingers in every pie, including KZN education and...

The controversial auditor’s firm seconded staff to run the education department’s finance offices for more than 15 years. What’s more, former KZN education director general Cassius Lubisi is the audit firm’s new chair

More top stories

Ice skating champion shows off the Cape Flats talent at...

A young ice-skating champion has beaten the odds and brought home a national gold medal

Study finds too much salt can damage immune cell function

The study investigated how sodium intake affects human cells by giving participants 6g of salt in tablet form each day for 14 days, while they continued with their normal diets.

New plan to tackle marine pollution

The environment department’s Source-to-Sea initiative will create 1 600 work opportunities

Gigaba insists he faced sinister threat, slams court ruling on...

The former cabinet minister told the Zondo commission he cannot see how the court concluded there was no evidence of a plot to kill him
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×