26 May 2014

Swaziland: Supreme Court Threaten to Quit

Photo: Mantoe Phakathi/IPS
Swazi lawyers protesting outside the High Court against Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi (file photo).

Two Supreme Court judges have threatened to resign if a warrant issued by the Swaziland Chief Justice for the arrest of three High Court judges who are critical of him is served, a South African newspaper has reported.

Now, the Mail and Guardian reports arrests may take place immediately after the present Supreme Court session ends on Friday (30 May 2014).

Swaziland's Chief Justice Michael reportedly issued the warrants on 16 May 2014, but the Swazi police did not make the arrests.

The three judges are judges Mumcy Dlamini, Bheki Maphalala and Mbutfo Mamba.

CJ Ramodibedi denied a report that originally appeared in the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, and who appointed the Lesotho-born Ramodibedi to his office.

In its report, the Observer said the arrest warrants were issued because the CJ felt the judges were 'ignoring his orders and bringing the High Court into disrepute'.

The newspaper reported, 'According to a reliable source at the High Court, the Chief Justice alleges that Judge Bheki Maphalala is influencing his staff members not to take orders from him. Maphalala, according to the source, is spearheading a High Court rebellion.

The Observer added, 'Judge Mamba is alleged to have tried taking over the bail application of The Nation Editor Bheki Makhubu and Human Rights Lawyer Thulani Maseko.'

After Ramodibedi's denial of the story, the Observer ran an editorial saying it stood by its report.

The Mail and Guardian reported an unnamed source saying the execution of the warrants had been delayed 'because two foreign judges of the supreme court - Swaziland's court of appeal - had threatened an immediate walkout if the arrests took place.

'The supreme court is in session until May 30, and there are fears that the arrests could take place immediately after it goes into recess.'

In its original report, the Observer said Ramodibedi already had replacements lined up to take over from the arrested judges.

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