Nat Molomo & Caswell Tlali
MASERU — Court of Appeal President Justice Michael Ramodibedi has denied abusing public funds and being responsible for the “mess” in the judiciary.
The denials are contained in a replying affidavit which he filed at the High Court on Friday.
Justice Ramodibedi said he should not be held responsible for any “irregularities” in the payments for judges that were effected after he submitted his estimations last year.
The judge was responding to allegations raised by Law Minister Mophato Monyake in his court papers last month in which he accused the judge of abusing public funds among other things.
Justice Ramodibedi said at the start of the October 2012 sitting of the Court of Appeal three judges Justices Scott, Hurt and Howie informed him that they had been overpaid for the January and August sittings.
He said they agreed that their October remuneration could be reduced to cater for the overpayment.
Justice Ramodibedi however denied that he was overpaid insisting there were no irregularities on his payment.
“On my part the remuneration of the January and August 2012 sitting had not resulted in any overpayment. None of the cases in which I presided and wrote judgments were settled out of court or struck off the roll,” he said.
“If there are any “irregularities” in the payments that have been effected following estimations I prepared and not counter-checked by the registrar as the chief accounting officer, I cannot be held responsible or be accused of abusing public funds.”
In his papers last month Monyake said Prime Minister Thomas Thabane wanted to discuss this issue of unauthorised allowances and benefits that had been paid to Justice Ramodibedi and other Court of Appeal judges when the judge walked out during a stormy meeting on April 22.
The minister said the government was concerned that Justice Ramodibedi had overpaid some of his judges on two occasions.
Monyake said it was “striking and of serious concern” to the government that while the other judges reimbursed the State, Justice Ramodibedi did not.
Justice Ramodibedi also denied that he was to blame for the “mess” in the judiciary.
He said as the President of the Court of Appeal his “responsibility is to run this court only and not the High Court which is equally run by the Chief Justice”.
“Any alleged “mess” or “crisis” of the judiciary should be seen and discussed in this context and I only take responsibility for things that happen in my court,” Justice Ramodibedi said in the affidavit.
He also defended his role in Swaziland saying his appointments in the two Kingdoms of Lesotho and Swaziland is not inconsistent with the constitutions or any other law of the two countries.
“All these appointments were cleared with the government of Lesotho for the reason that it should be aware that I am offering judicial services elsewhere without relinquishing my judicial office in Lesotho,” he said.
He says in Swaziland “I accepted to serve on condition that I do not relinquish my posts in Lesotho and Botswana.
“My contract in Botswana expired in July 2012”.
Justice Ramodibedi says his position is not like that of Chief Justices’ and High Court judges’ “who are barred by the High Court Act 1978 from holding any other office or engaging in any remunerative work”. There is nothing similar in the Court of Appeal Act 1978 and the Constitution in respect of Judges of Appeal,” he said.
He says the oaths of office “I have taken enjoin me to be faithful to their Majesties in accordance with the constitutions and laws of the respective Kingdoms”.
Justice Ramodibedi sued the government alleging that Prime Minister Thabane had asked him to step down for contributing to the “mess” in the judiciary.
Thabane denies that he asked the judge to step down.
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