Mbabane - Swaziland’s Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi locked himself in his house in Mbabane at the weekend to avoid arrest by Swazi police on corruption and other charges.
A Lesotho citizen, Ramodibedi resigned as high court president in his home country last year to avoid impeachment proceedings against him there.
He could face impeachment in Swaziland following an arrest warrant issued against him by the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission. Ramodibedi faces 23 charges, including abuse of power.
“The chief justice eroded the confidence of the public in the country’s judicial system,” reads the charge sheet.
Police brought riot units to Ramodibedi’s luxurious home but did not force entry because other judges were inside.
A court official emerged with an order from High Court Justice Jacobus Annadale rescinding the arrest warrant.
Swazi media reported that Justice Annadale may become indicted in impeachment proceedings against Ramodibedi.
During his controversial term on the Swazi bench, Ramodibedi declared himself “mkhulu baas” (the “big chief”) and fought Swaziland’s law association, the media, the prime minister and cabinet, and traditional authorities.
Appointed by King Mswati in 2010, he refused to be arrested because Mswati had not issued the instruction.
Last week, Ramodibedi dismissed an arrest warrant against his key ally in the government, Minister of Justice Sibusiso Shongwe, who is wanted by the Swaziland Revenue Authority regarding an allegedly irregular R2 million financial transaction.
Ramodibedi and Shongwe are both at odds with Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini.
One indictment against Ramodibedi is that during one of his confrontations with Dlamini, he illegally recorded a phone conversation.
Observers say Ramodibedi felt his appointment by Mswati made him invulnerable. However, the chief justice failed to appreciate Mswati’s desire for revenue collection. One indictment against him is that he assigned the adjudication of his lawsuit against the revenue authority for the return of money deducted from his salary to Justice Mpendulo Simelane, despite a conflict of interest with Simelane.
Simelane was reported missing at the weekend.
Ramodibedi also faces charges of directing payment of allowances for judges to which they were not entitled, abusing a government car and causing Swaziland “humiliation” at the Comesa Court of Justice.
He was summoned by Mswati’s traditional authorities on Thursday for a meeting, which he did not attend. On Friday, he sought an audience with Mswati, but was reportedly kept sitting in his car for hours until he drove away.
The police unit that had guarded Ramodibedi’s residence was removed at the weekend.