Swazi Prime Minister, Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini, has requested his Lesotho counterpart, Pakalitha Mosisili to “persuade” Justice Michael Ramodibedi to surrender to the police.
Mr Ramodibedi—a Mosotho who has been Swaziland’s Chief Justice since 2010—has refused to come out of his mansion since the High Court ordered his arrest two weeks ago.
The former Lesotho Court of Appeal president faces a raft of charges relating to conflict of interest, defeating the ends of justice and abuse of power.
However, the Swazi authorities have failed to arrest Mr Ramodibedi because he has barricaded himself in his residence. Initially, the chief justice (CJ) had said he would only come out of the house if a high-ranking Lesotho government official was present. Lesotho’s High Commissioner to Swaziland, ’Malejaka Letooane, subsequently travelled to Swaziland on Wednesday last week, but failed to convince Mr Ramodibedi to surrender. She left Mbabane on Saturday soon after briefing the media, alongside premier Dlamini, about her abortive mission.
Ms Letooane on Saturday told the Swazi press: “My mandate was very clear and very simple. Firstly, the Kingdom of Lesotho wanted me to come and get first impression of what is happening. Secondly, I was sent to get the side of the Swaziland government on this matter. Thirdly, I had to see the chief justice and also see how his family is doing and this is something I achieved yesterday. Lesotho isn’t here to tell Swaziland either to stop the investigation or determine the matter in any way. These are two countries that are sovereign and they have their own ways of dealing with such matters.”
However, according to a confidential letter obtained from Swazi sources by the Lesotho Times, Dr Dlamini on Sunday wrote to Dr Mosisili seeking his intervention in the impasse, failing which Swaziland’s law-enforcement agents would break into Mr Ramodibedi’s residence and arrest him.
The letter, dated 26 April 2015 and headlined, ‘REQUEST FOR YOUR EXCELLENCY’S INTERVENTION IN RE—THE KING VS MICHAEL RAMODIBEDI HIGH COURT OF SWAZILAND, CRIMINAL CASES NOS 188/2015, 190/2015 AND 191/2015’, reads: “His Excellency would be aware that one national of Lesotho in the name of Mr Michael M Ramodibedi based in Swaziland and employed as Chief Justice of Swaziland, has been charged with various criminal offences.
“These charges are in contravention of the Prevention of Corruption Act of 2006 and also charged under the common law offences of defeating the ends of justice, including but not limited to, where he attempted to overturn a warrant of arrest lawfully issued by the High Court of Swaziland.
“It may please you, Your Excellency, to note that several attempts, spanning over seven days, to serve Mr Ramodibedi or execute the warrant of arrest against him, have failed because Mr Ramodibedi has locked himself in his government-allocated house, thus preventing the execution of the warrant of arrest.
“Your Excellency, may it be noted too, that one of the available options to the government of Swaziland, after persuasion has failed, is to use minimum and appropriate force to effect the arrest. The government of Swaziland has tried and failed to persuade Mr Ramodibedi to come out and be arrested as per the court order.
“Pursuant to the fact that persuasion has yielded no results, your Excellency, the Government of Swaziland is desirous, if it could be helped, to avoid the use of force as stated above, bearing in mind all its attendant consequences. The extent of our tolerant level is evidenced by the government of Swaziland affording a chance to the visit of your High Commissioner, Mrs E M Letooane, who was able to meet with cabinet and further visited Mr Ramodibedi and his family. Regrettably, this visit yielded no desired results. The preference is that Mr Ramodibedi, as a person well-versed in law, surrenders himself to the law-enforcement agencies, that being the right thing to do.
“As a last step before resorting to the use of minimum force, we hereby do, Your Excellency, request your assistance in persuading Mr Ramodibedi to surrender himself to the Swaziland law-enforcement agencies.
“Your Excellency is assured that Mr Ramodibedi will be afforded fair treatment, a fair trial and the respect that goes with his status in the same way that his other co-accused (two judges of the High Court and Registrar of the High Court) have been treated and are out on bail as we speak.
“Your Excellency would appreciate that this matter is very urgent as the continued impasse undermines the rule of law and the administration of justice. Accept Your Excellency, the assurance of my highest consideration: Dr Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Swaziland.’
Speaking from Harare, Zimbabwe, yesterday where he was attending a Southern African Development Community meeting, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary, Tebello Metsing, said: “I am not in the country at the moment so I cannot comment on the issue. Again, such communication would go straight to the prime minister’s office.”
However, Mr Metsing said he had heard “claims” that the Swazi premier had indicated that he wanted to talk to Dr Mosisili about the issue during the SADC Heads of State and Government Summit, which ended yesterday in Harare.
According to Mr Metsing, Mr Ramodibedi’s resistance had now become “an embarrassment” to Lesotho.
“This issue is now becoming an embarrassment. I think Mr Ramodibedi should just cooperate because the matter could end up souring the good relations that exist between the Kingdom of Swaziland and the Kingdom of Lesotho,” Mr Metsing said.
Mr Ramodibedi could not be reached for comment, while Government Secretary, Moahloli Mphaka, was also unavailable.