AN association of Southern Africa’s top judges has reacted angrily to the recent arrest of Swaziland’s four judges and called on the country’s leadership to respect the principle of separation of power between the Judiciary and Executive.
BY CHARLES LAITON
In a statement, the Southern African Chief Justice Forum (SACJF), which encompasses chief justices from all East and Southern African countries, also appealed to the Swazi legal system to ensure the matter was handled in accordance with the principles of natural justice and fairness.
“The SACJF also encourages the authorities in Swaziland to ensure that the Chief Justice and the other judges are accorded all their rights including the right to be represented by counsel of their choice,” said the statement signed by SACJF chairperson Justice Peter Shivute of Namibia.
“Above all, the matter needs to be handled in accordance with the law and in a way that preserves and reinforces the independence, integrity and dignity of the courts and reinforces rather than undermines separation of powers and the rule of law.”
Justice Shivute said his association was closely monitoring events surrounding the arrest of two judges, Mphendulo Simelane and Jacobus Annandale, the Registrar of the High Court of Swaziland and the possible arrest of Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi.
“The SACJF confirms the principle of independence, impartiality and accountability of the judiciary without which there cannot be effective separation of powers among the three branches of government, namely the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary.”
Swaziland’s Justice minister Sibusiso Shongwe, Justices Simelane and Annandale were arrested on Monday this week at their respective homes while Ramodibedi initially fled to South Africa and later came back and locked himself in his residence.
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The police refrained from breaking into his house after receiving instructions from their superiors.
Simelane is charged with defeating the course of justice. This relates to his failure to recuse himself in a matter between Ramodibedi and the Swaziland Revenue Authority. Simelane subsequently ruled in favour of Ramodibedi.