Ramodibedi refuses to surrender vehicles

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Ramolibeli…embattled judge marks 26th day barricaded in his home to avoid arrest 

Lekhetho Ntsukunyane

THE Swazi government on Monday withdrew two vehicles issued to suspended Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi for official use.

However, the vehicles had not been removed from Justice Ramodibedi’s home by yesterday because the former Lesotho Court of Appeal president would not open the gate to his residence, which has remained locked since a warrant for his arrest was issued on 17 April 2015.

Justice Ramodibedi faces a raft of charges related to abuse of power, but has refused to surrender to the country’s law-enforcement authorities. He has not given a reason for this defiance.

Last week, the Swazi government suspended Justice Ramodibedi pending a Judicial Service Commission (JSC) inquiry, while also withholding the arrest warrant.

But the 70-year-old still refused to come out of his residence, with today marking the 26th day he has been holed-up in his residence with his family. An acting chief justice has since been appointed by the Swazi government, while efforts to persuade him out of his home continue.

Meanwhile, JSC secretary, Lorraine Hlophe wrote to Justice Ramodibedi advising him to surrender the two government vehicles in his possession.

The letter dated 11 May 2015, and headlined, “Removal of motor vehicles from suspended Chief Justice’s residence”, is addressed to General Transport Manager, Mr Mavimbela, and reads: “Reference is made to the above-captioned matter, in particular our tele-conversation. We are directed by the Acting Chief Justice that you assist in the collection of the two motor vehicles being a Mercedes Benz 280 SG 019 JU (LSD 153 AH) and BMW 750 LI GSD 021 JU. These cars we request be towed and accordingly, be kept at the High Court premises before close of business today, 11 May 2015. Your usual cooperation shall be highly appreciated.”

But according to government spokesperson, Percy Simelane, Mr Ramodibedi had not complied with the request by yesterday.

Mr Simelane told the Lesotho Times from Mbabane yesterday: “Despite all the efforts we have made to massage the situation and hoping that the now suspended chief justice will come to his senses and surrender, he is still refusing to come out. The police went to collect the cars from Justice Ramodibedi’s residence on Monday but he refused to give them the keys, while he also kept the garage doors locked.

“The police have been nursing the situation hoping that he will comply to no avail. They could force their way in but we don’t want to hurt innocent souls inside the house. We don’t want them affected by this. We have tried all efforts, even by way of communicating this issue with the government of Lesotho because of our cordial relations, but the suspended chief justice cannot comply.

“If he continues to be defiant, we will be left with no alternative but let the police use force to enter his home and arrest him. He is making things difficult for himself.”

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