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10 Jul 2015 13:30
Michael Ramodibedi. (The Nation)
Rumours are flying in Lesotho that disgraced judge Michael
Ramodibedi – considered a close ally of Lesotho’s new prime minister Pakalitha
Mosilili – could be reinstated as the country’s Court of Appeal president .
But Lesotho’s legal fraternity indicated this week that
it would resist any move to reinstate him after his dismissal as Swaziland’s
chief justice last month and earlier moves to impeach him as the head of
Lesotho’s apex court.
King Mswati, his former promoter and protector, dismissed
him on the recommendation of Swaziland’s Judicial Service Commission. He allegedly faced charges after an investigation by the
country’s Anti-Corruption Commission.
Allowed to leave Swaziland after the charges were dropped,
he is now thought to be living in Ladybrand in the Free State, just across the
Speculation about his possible
reinstatement as the head of Lesotho’s Appeal Court was fuelled by Lesotho
foreign minister Tlohang Sekhamane’s extraordinary statement last week that “despite
all the sensational headlines about Judge Ramodibedi having been fired in
Swaziland”, there had been “a soft landing for that powerful Mosotho judge who,
despite this saga, has made us proud by flying the Lesotho flag high with his
legal practice experience abroad”.
Sekhamane is said to have intervened to have charges dropped
against him in Swaziland.
As the Swazi chief justice from 2011 Ramodibedi
was at the centre of repeated controversies, including a protest strike by
Swazi lawyers and the jailing of the country’s most respected editor
In his own country, he resigned his judicial position in an
apparent move to stave off an impeachment process driven by former premier Tom
Thabane over his alleged maladministration and abuse of office.
Lesotho’s new seven-party coalition government, headed by
Mosisili, has good reasons for wanting a sympathetic leader of the judiciary.
It may be facing a slew of court cases, particularly relating to the killing of
former defence force head Maaparankoe Mahao.
Legal experts in Lesotho, who spoke anonymously, alleged that
some of Lesotho’s coalition government partners had been trying to find ways of
creating a vacancy in the Court of Appeal for Ramodibedi to fill.
However, it had been pointed out to them that the court’s current
president, Kananelo Mosito, was innocent of any misconduct warranting removal
and that his position is protected by the constitution.
The president of the Lesotho Law Society, Shale Shale, told
amaBhungane that the society would have reservations about any move to
Shale was, however, quick to say there had been no formal
communication from government indicating such intentions.
“We have only heard rumours about his possible return, but
it is not clear exactly what position he would assume, Appeal Court president or
“We will have to wait to see what transpires, as there are substantive
people in those positions. The Law Society would need convincing reasons for [Ramodibedi’s]
reappointment, as he has issues that have tainted his image, including maladministration
of funds and an alleged insurance fraud case.
“We are aware of other charges he was facing in Swaziland.
We would not want someone with such a record at the helm of the judiciary and
would protest against his appointment.”
Current appeal court head Kananelo Mosito said: “Nothing has
come my way to give me any impression about [Ramodibdi’s] reinstatement; I
don’t know anything.”
Sekhamane told a Lesotho’s Sunday Express that the decision to allow Ramodibedi safe passage out
of Swaziland without being charged followed “cordial” talks and correspondence
between Mswati and Lesotho’s King Letsie.
He suggested that Mosisili’s government
had prompted the contact between the two monarchs, saying it was “pursuant to
the government of Lesotho”.
of the cordial relations between the two Kings and, of course, governments, King Mswati III accordingly relieved Judge
Ramodibedi of his position as the Swazi Chief Justice and the charges which he
faced were also dropped.”
Contacted for comment, Lesotho’s minister in the Prime Minister’s office, Kimetso Mathaba, defended his government’s
decision to broker Ramodibedi’s safe passage home saying all it had done was
was to “ensure his safe return”.
He said he knew of claims that he is to be
reappointed to the Lesotho judiciary, but that that the coalition government
had not even discussed the issue.
Numerous attempts to get hold of
Ramodibedi were fruitless, as his mobile phone went unanswered.
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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story.
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