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SA judges to hear Justice Ramodibedi case

Nat Molomo

MASERU — Three South African judges will on July 22 and 23 hear a constitutional case in which Court of Appeal President Michael Ramodibedi is suing Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. The case was postponed in chambers by Justice Suled Potterrill, one of the three judges from South Africa, who will hear the case. The other two are Justices Dimpheletse Mashidi from the South Gauteng High Court and John Musi from the Bloemfontein High Court.

The crown team, consisting of Advocate Sipho Mdhluli, Khotso Nthontho and Lerato Makholela, and one of the lawyers for Justice Ramodibedi, Advocate Zwelakhe Mda, agreed on the nitty-gritties to be adopted for the case. Mda indicated that they were busy preparing replying affidavits while Mdhluli on behalf of the crown, indicated that they had consulted a senior counsel from Johannesburg who will only be available on July 22, 23 and 24.All parties agreed that the case be postponed to July 22.

Justice Ramodibedi’s lawyers are to file their answering affidavits and their heads of arguments on July 11 and serve them before July 19. Justice Ramodibedi approached the Constitutional Court seeking relief after the government issued a directive to take away his two official cars. He also claims Thabane had instructed him to step down as President of Court of Appeal for allegedly contributing to the mess in the judiciary. He also claims that Thabane had also allegedly told him that Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla, who is now on leave pending retirement, had agreed to step down.

His lawyers appeared before Acting Chief Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi in May where interim relief was granted. The interim order ensured that Justice Ramodibedi had access to his official cars pending the finalisation of the case. Justice Ramodibedi’s team of lawyers who consisted of Advocates Salemane Phafane KC, Sakoane Sakoane and Zwelakhe Mda, argued that the cars were Justice Ramodibedi’s tools of trade to discharge his duties.

Phafane, who led the team, said Justice Ramodibedi is “in charge of day-to-day operation of the Court of Appeal which has its own permanent staff”. He said the government, by deciding to take the cars from the judge, had intended to ambush and embarrass him. Phafane also argued that neither the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, ’Makhele Sekhantšo, nor the Prime Minister or senior government ministers had any powers to instruct the High Court registrar as to how resources in the judiciary should be used.

Sekhantšo’s letter to the registrar, Phafane argued, “was meant to be used as an instrument of ambush against the judge”.
“This is a clear case of an intended ambush. Nothing could be more unlawful like this,” he said. The government was represented by Advocate Siphosihle Mdlhuli who led a team consisting of Advocates Khotso Nthontho, Lebeoana Letsie and Lerato Makholela.

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