D-Day for top judge

Ramodibedi2By Caswell Tlali

MASERU — Three South African judges have been approached to sit on a tribunal that will hear the government’s impeachment proceedings against Court of Appeal President Justice Michael Ramodibedi.

The move makes Justice Ramodibedi the first judge in Lesotho to face impeachment proceedings.

If all goes according to plan the judges, whose names had not been released at the time of going to print yesterday, are likely to be sworn-in tomorrow or Monday.

King Letsie III is expected to approve the impeachment proceedings today.

Justice Ramodibedi, who is currently in Swaziland where he is chief justice, is also likely to receive the papers today.

“We can safely say (Justice) Ramodibedi will receive summonses any time starting from Thursday,” said a source close to the issue.

“If things go according to schedule, names of the three judges will be announced in the government gazette by Friday or Monday”.

Impeachments are also rare in the region.

Although the reasons for the impeachment are yet to be made public, an affidavit filed by Justice Minister Mophato Monyake in June gives an indication.

Monyake filed the affidavit in response to the Constitutional case Justice Ramodibedi had brought against Prime Minister Tom Thabane and the government.

The judge wanted the court to rule that Thabane was wrong to have asked him to resign at a heated meeting on April 22 and the government had no right to withdrawal his official vehicles.

In response, Monyake did more than just that the prime minister had asked the judge to resign and that the government wanted to take the vehicles.

The minister revealed that Thabane was in the process of advising the king to set up a tribunal to investigate Justice Ramodibedi.

He listed the allegations the government is making against the judge.

Monyake accused Justice Ramodibedi of bringing the judiciary into disrepute, fraud and instigating his driver to make a false insurance claim.

The charge that he brought the judiciary into disrepute emanates from his long-drawn battle with former Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla over seniority. Justice Lehohla retired on August 13.

The minister alleged that the judge had influenced his driver to make a M120 000 insurance claim after his official vehicle was damaged in an accident.

He alleged that Justice Ramodibedi’s son was the one driving the government car under the influence of alcohol but the judge told his driver to admit that he was the one driving when the accident happened.

Monyake also alleged that the judge had claimed more in allowances than he deserved.

That allegation seems to have been based on the fact that two judges had returned part of their allowances to the government after being overpaid.

Monyake said he found it disturbing that Justice Ramodibedi had not refunded the government when he had sat with the two judges during the session.

He said the judge should have claimed far less than what he was paid.

The crown’s legal representatives consist of Advocates Siphosihle Mdhluli, Khotso Nthontho, Lebeoana Letsie and Lerato Makholela.

Justice Ramodibedi’s legal team consists of Advocates Salemane Phafane KC, Zwelakhe Mda KC and Sakoane Sakoane KC.

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