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Ramodibedi claims ‘absolute immunity’ from prosecution


Michael Ramodibedi

Lekhetho Ntsukunyane

Suspended Chief Justice (CJ) Michael Ramodibedi has told Swazi authorities that the country’s constitution provides him with “absolute immunity” from prosecution hence the invalidity of the arrest warrant issued against him by the High Court last month

According to court papers Mr Ramodibedi filed before the High Court of Swaziland on Thursday through his lawyer, Advocate Sipho Mnisi, a warrant of arrest cannot be issued against a sitting judge or chief justice “and that putting any of the two under the control of the police would contravene section 141(1) of the Constitution.”

Justice Ramodibedi noted in the court papers that Justice Stanley Maphalala—who issued the warrant on 17 April 2015 after the former Lesotho Court of Appeal president had been charged with abuse of office and defeating the ends of justice—failed to consider the fact that there was “no prima facie case made” because the charges against him related to the exercise of his judicial power.

He further argues the warrant was illegally issued by Justice Maphalala “as it was done at night at his residence as opposed to the chambers.”

Justice Ramodibedi noted in the court papers: “On 17 April 2015, SB Maphalala PJ issued a warrant of arrest against me at the instigation of the respondent (Anti Corruption Commission). I am informed and verily believe that this was done at night at the judge’s residence contrary to section 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 2006. That section specifically provides in mandatory terms that an application for a warrant of arrest should be made in chambers. What is worse, the warrant of arrest was issued in the absence of the registrar of the High Court.”

Justice Ramodibedi further argues that Justice Jacobus Annandale was right to set aside the warrant of arrest issued by Maphalala on the grounds that the principal judge had not been allocated the matter in terms of Rule 55 of the High Court Rules.

“The Rule provides in mandatory terms that all cases in the High Court shall be allocated by the registrar in consultation with the chief justice, hence Justice Annandale correctly held that the arrest warrant in question was null and void ab initio. It has no legal force and effect. Furthermore, the learned judge held that SB Maphalala PJ failed to accord me the right to be heard before granting the warrant of arrest,” he noted.

The suspended CJ added instead of appealing Judge Annandale’s order setting aside the warrant of arrest in question, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), assisted by the police, chose to defy it.

The ACC and the police instead, insisted on executing the arrest order, he noted, adding that he took a position that he was not bound to comply with “an illegal warrant of arrest.”

Meanwhile, the ACC is expected to file opposing papers while the matter is expected to be heard before the High Court tomorrow.

After finally emerging from his residence on 25 May 2015 where he had barricaded himself on 17 April 2015 following the arrest order, it is hoped Mr Ramodibedi’s case would finally be completed.

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