Move to suspend Justice Ramodibedi gathers pace

Justice Ramodibedi with Tseliso MonaphathiBy Caswell Tlali

MASERU — The process to suspend Court of Appeal President Michael Ramodibedi is expected to start next Wednesday, the Lesotho Times can reveal.

Prime Minister Thomas Thabane last Thursday wrote to Justice Ramodibedi asking him to show cause why he should not be suspended pending the finalisation of his impeachment proceedings.

Thabane wrote the letter after King Letsie III appointed three retired judges from South Africa to sit in the tribunal set up to investigate reasons for Justice Ramodibedi’s removal from office.

The Lesotho Times understands that Justice Minister Mophato Monyake went to Sandton, South Africa, yesterday to make final arrangements for the three judges to come to Lesotho.

The appointed judges are Justices Mohammed Yacoob, who is the chairman, Jennifer Yvonne Mokgoro and Meyer Joffe.

A source close to the developments told the Lesotho Times that Justice Ramodibedi’s suspension is urgent because the government does not want him to sit in the October session of the Court of Appeal “because at that time he will be under investigation by the tribunal”.

“In the letter the Prime Minister has asked him to forward reasons why a judge can be allowed to carry on with his duties even when under investigation,” the source said.

“However, the King will still have a final say as to whether he is suspended or not even if he forwards the reasons, if any.”

This paper understands that Justice Ramodibedi is accused of failure to protect the integrity and the independence of the judiciary because of his failure to resolve disputes between him and the former Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla.

What happened at the King’s birthday celebrations in Mohale’s Hoek last year when Justice Ramodibedi and Chief Justice Lehohla battled to appear first in the King’s convoy has also been raised in the charge sheet.

Justice Ramodibedi is also accused of cancelling the January 2013 Court of Appeal session after Chief Justice Lehohla declined to release judges to sit with him in the court.

The government says had Justice Ramodibedi resolved his disputes with Chief Justice Lehohla the cancellation could not have happened.

Justice Ramodibedi is also accused of instructing his official chauffer, Emmanuel Motšetše, to submit a false report to an insurance company after his car was involved in an accident.

The top judge allegedly instructed Motšetše to say he was the one driving the car while it was being driven by the judge’s son, Pheko Ramodibedi.

The insurance company allegedly paid M123 502 while the government paid a further M18 789.

He is also accused of charging “excessive fees” in August 2012 for services he rendered as a judge.

Justice Ramodibedi is also facing charges of claiming travel allowance for his trips to Swaziland where he works as the Chief Justice.

He is also accused of claiming per diems and travel allowances for his wife after they went to the United Kingdom as part of his official visit.

Justice Ramodibedi is also facing a perjury case after he allegedly deposed to an affidavit in a case in which he sued the Prime Minister and other cabinet ministers in the Constitutional Court for attempting to remove him from office unconstitutionally.

He allegedly deposed that he signed the affidavit in Mafeteng before a commissioner of oaths while on that day he was not in the country.

Other charges relate to his alleged misconduct in Swaziland where he is the Chief Justice.

Another source said several Swazis are willing to come to Lesotho to testify against him.

The government accuses Justice Ramodibedi of chairing a meeting in which the Swaziland Law Society complained about him in a case in which he had sent a local judge packing for criticising King Mswati III in a judgment.

The Lesotho government accuses Justice Ramodibedi of compromising the independence of the judiciary in Swaziland.

“He should behave like a judge wherever he is, in any country,” said one of the sources.

One of his lawyers Advocate Sakoane Sakoane KC said he was not aware of the charges when contacted.

However this paper understands that two of his team, Advocates Salemane Phafane and Zwelakhe Mda, were served with the papers on Monday.

Mda’s phone went unanswered while Phafane was not available on the phone.

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