Chief Justice bemoans arrest of Swazi judges

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In a press release issued by the Chief Justice, Peter Shivute, in his capacity as the Chairperson of the Southern African Chief Justices Forum (SACJF) he called on the Swazi authorities to handle the case involving Swaziland’s Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi as well as the Registrar of the High Court of Swaziland and two judges with care.

“The SACJF has been following reports off events taking place in the Kingdom of Swaziland involving the arrest of two judges, the Registrar of the High Court of Swaziland and the possible arrest of Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi. The SACJF affirms the principle of independence, impartiality and accountability of the judiciary without which there cannot be effective separation of powers amongst the three branches of government, namely, the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary,” Chief Justice Shivute stated in a media release.

He further said the principle of separation of powers provides the checks and balances necessary for the maintenance of a democratic system of government.

According to Shivute, the SACJF affirms the principle of equality before the law as sacrosanct for the maintenance of public confidence in the administration of justice.

For this reason, he says, the SACJF urges the authorities in Swaziland to ensure they handle the case in accordance with the principles of natural justice and fairness.

The chief justice also encourages the authorities in Swaziland to ensure that his Swaziland counterpart and the other judges are accorded all their rights including the right to be represented by counsel of their choice.

“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 the separation of powers and the rule of law,” read the chief justice’s statement.

Shivute said SACJF stands ready to offer its counsel to the authorities in Swaziland to help in resolving this matter.
The judges, Mpendulo Simelane and Jacobus Annandale together with the Justice Minister Sibusiso Shongwe were arrested on Monday at their respective homes by agents of that country’s Anti-Corruption Commission.

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