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Swaziland’s Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi missing in action?

The Lesotho born Chief Justice’s whereabouts have been surrounded by mystery since Wednesday afternoon, after he left his body guards stranded at the Oshoeck border gate while he crossed over to South Africa with his family. 

Ramodibedi allegedly fled amidst a promptly royal summons from Ludzidzini residence.

He reportedly received the message while at the border gate but proceeded with his trip.

Government Spokesperson, Percy Simelane has confirmed that Ramodibedi has skipped the country and  they don’t know where he is. 

“We have no idea of his whereabouts,” said Simelane. “I can confirm that he got the message sent to him by Prime Minister ( Sibusiso Dlamini) to urgently report to King and one would have expected him to abandon his trip and heed the King’s call because it would be impolite to keep him waiting.”

Speaking to M&G on Friday,  Simelane said it is government procedure that when the chief justice attends outside activities he must first be granted authorisation permitting him to go with his police escorts.

“His escorts had to stop at the border because the CJ’s trip was not authorised by government, so his escorts could not cross with him because they would not have accommodation and money for meals and other expenses,” said Simelane. 

Ramodibedi is notorious for turning the Swazi justice system into a cesspit, where he fought personal battles with subordinates who refused to do his dirty work.

He would maliciously charge those who criticise him about the way he administers justice and media reports have surfaced several times of deep divisions amongst the judges, with those who don’t want to do his bidding frustrated and sabotaged in various ways. 

Parliament recently raised serious concerns in the manner cases were allocated. 

Cases that advance his interest and that of his friend, minister of Justice and Contsitutional Affairs, Sibusiso Shongwe were always given to his favourite judge Justice Mpendulo Simelane and all those cases handled by Simelane would go to his favour.

Critics who dare raise a finger would be threatened with contempt of court. The case of Human rights Lawyer, Thulane Maseko and The Nation Magazine editor Bheki Makhubu are a classical example.

Recently, Justice Simelane refused to recuse himself in a matter involving Ramodibedi and the Swaziland Revenue Authority (SRA) even though he (Simelane) participated in the matter while he was High Court Registrar.  

The SRA lawyer Nkosinathi Manzini had asked Simelane to recuse himself on the grounds that Simelane participated in the matter

Ramodibedi won the matter against the SRA because he was not happy with the taxation of his R128 000 gratuity.

In April 2014, Simelane had also refused to recuse himself in a matter between jailed Makhubu and Maseko. The duo wanted Simelane to recuse himself because he had been criticised in their articles that Ramodibedi viewed as contemptuous. 

Justice Simelane was present during the events to the point that he made a judicial notice of what happened in the chambers.

Ramodibedi has of late not been on good terms with Swaziland Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini, and their falling out has spilled to the media – with Ramodibedi backed by Shongwe. 

However, rumours are circulating that the Ramodibedi has a string of charges hanging over his head which might be the reason why he might have resorted to be law fugitive.

Swaziland recently suffered embarrassment when it learnt that novice Simelane’s name was submitted alongside experienced judge Cinisile Mabuse at the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.  

The Swazi government had submitted the latter, and the mystery remained on the submission of the former. 

But, on Wednesday local media quoted Ramodibedi rubbishing the allegations that he had skipped the country, but he did not mention his whereabouts. –

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