Wednesday, April 29, 2015


It is hard to believe the police in Swaziland are serious in their intent to get the kingdom’s Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi to leave the house he has been holed up in for 11 days after a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Ramodibedi who is in his luxury mansion in Mbabane with his wife and two adult children was allowed to send one of his sons out for food last Friday (24 April 2015) and it was reported that on Wednesday (28 April 2015) his maid delivered food to the family.

Ramodibedi, a native of Lesotho, reportedly faces 23 charges, including abuse of power. 

Two High Court Judges, Mpendulo Simelane and Jacobus Annandale, and the High Court Registrar, Fikile Nhlabatsi, have also been charged in connection with Ramodibedi’s case. They have appeared in court and been bailed.

The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported on Wednesday, ‘The movement, with ease, of some members of the CJ’s family in and out of his residence has left journalists wondering why the police were not using such opportunities to enter the house and arrest the CJ.’

Police Information and Communications Officer Assistant Superintendent Khulani Mamba told the newspaper they were still waiting for negotiations between, Lesotho and Swaziland, to be concluded.
It is not known who is negotiating and about what.

Police officers have been camping outside the CJ’s house since Friday 17 April 2015. They said they would arrest Ramodibedi as soon as he came out of the house. There has been no attempt to enter the house forcibly, despite the comings-and-goings of people from the house.

The lack of action by the police is unusual. They have a deserved reputation for smashing their way into the homes of pro-democracy activists, often without warrants. 

There is speculation within Swaziland and on social media about the reasoning for the delay in effecting the arrest warrant. On Sunday (26 April 2015), the Times Sunday, an independent newspaper in the kingdom, speculated that Ramodibedi was waiting until King Mswati returned to Swaziland from a trip to the Bandung Conference for Asian and African countries. 

The newspaper reported, ‘The chief justice is said to have stated that the only person he trusts was His Majesty the King.’ 

The newspaper did not say so but it is assumed that Ramodibedi thinks King Mswati will cancel the arrest warrant.

It is true that King Mswati personally appointed and re-appointed Ramodibedi to the post of Chief Justice and that Ramodibedi has been a loyal and vocal supporter of the King. But, it is not so clear that Ramodibedi still enjoys the King’s favour. The King rules over the judiciary and the Swazi Government which he hand-picks and it is inconceivable that the arrest warrant would have been issued without his permission.

One speculation is that the Chief Justice will be allowed to leave his house at the dead of night and escape into neighbouring South Africa.

Many observers find it hard to imagine that Ramodibedi, a personal appointee of the King, will be allowed to be tried in a court of law. The main charges against him are of abuse of power, but international observers will note that the (for now) alleged abuses were made on behalf of and for the benefit of the King.

If the spotlight is allowed to shine on Ramodibedi, it will shine also on the King.

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