Monday, August 4, 2014

Swazi Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi


Recently, the judicial offshoot of the political problem has received quite some reasonable attention due to the peculiar manner in which the judiciary handled the contempt of court case preferred against Thulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu and that was followed by the arrest of people for wearing t-shirts. As much as the authorities would have liked the t-shirt story to be paraded as Terrorism, the fact that there were people arrested for the mere act of wearing t-shirts was not lost to both the local and the international community. Suddenly people wanted to know if there was no other offence besides the wearing of the t-shirts that was committed which could justify the arrest of seven people.

When Justice Mumcy Dlamini broke with protocol and released Human Rights Lawyer Thulani Maseko and Nation magazine editor Bheki Makhubu, a lot of eyebrows were raised due to the fact that what was expected was that she would do the opposite. The norm is that if anyone criticises or defies authority in Swaziland, that surely such a person will be taught a lesson or part with a number of cows to appease the king. Such was the case with the people of Macetjeni and KaMkhweli who up to the present moment remain a displaced people because they dared to defy authority when they questioned the right of king Mswati III to impose a chief on them. It is the same norm that got Judge Thomas Masuku fired because he dared criticise the king. The fate of this well respected judge was sealed by Chief Justice Ramodibedi whose reputation has been tarnished by a multitude of issues, from the allegations of sexual harassment in Swaziland, and a hasty resignation in his home country where he is facing a number of issues that range from an impending impeachment and insurance fraud allegations.

In keeping with the norm, Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi brought eyebrows back at ease when he quickly issued a warrant of the re-arrest Of Maseko and Makhubu. Regardless that the chief justice holds his position unconstitutionally, he is not keen on keeping a low profile. Considering that back in his country he allegedly behaved in a manner of the priest who dipped his fingers in the tithing envelope, the expectation would be that he should lie low while drawing the Swazi salary, but such is not the style of the Lesotho national.

We now sit with an appointing authority whose tribute coffers come in a form of a cattle kraal and a chief Judge who is too willing to furnish his kraal with a number of beasts. We ask of the fate of justice when the same cattle herding Chief Justice fired another judge who he accused of disrespecting the very appointing authority who he pays homage to. We ask why it shouldn’t be considered a bribe that the chief justice can present cows to the same person who appoints Swazi chief judges and has appointed him in a blatant disregard for the very flawed constitution that a number of professional legal bodies have advised that its separation of powers aspect must be thoroughly revised. Separation of powers being the very bedrock that a constitution is supposed to be founded on is almost non-existent in the Swazi constitution.

No One Is Immune
It was when I had two weeks sitting in confinement that I really got to appreciate the number of people that get indirectly affected through the relentless campaign by the Tinkhundla Regime to silence any dissenting voice that seeks to expose that all is not well in Swaziland. By appreciating the number of people that were affected through my incarceration was how I got to be conscious of the reach of Tinkhundla regime’s bullying and how such has created a nation who would rather be quite than talk and be subjected to all manner of abuse.

There is a mocking bird that was killed as early as 1990 when PUDEMO President Mario Masuku and a number of political activists were paraded in the courts for treason. Because king Sobhuza II had done the ground work of stigmatising political parties, people thought it was the egg stealing mongoose that was getting massacred. It can also be said that that mocking bird was killed when Prince Mfanasibili and his alleged co-conspirators were put behind bars for assuming starring roles during the dethronement of the Queen Dzeliwe saga. Maybe it can be said that the justice mocking bird was killed when Dr Ambrose Zwane and Prince Dumisa Dlamini of the NLLC had to be continually incarcerated when they expressed opinions contrary to those of the ruling elite.

In the person of Nation magazine editor who carries no political tag, the people have seen that anybody can get arrested and be paraded in the courts in leg irons for the act of expressing opinion. It has now dawned that such harsh treatment is not an exclusive preserve for political activists. As much as the mocking bird of justice was killed many decades ago, in the eyes of a good number Swazi people the guilty verdict and the stiff sentence meted on Maseko and Makhubu signals the death of justice in Swaziland. For this mass awakening we only have chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi to thank.

The reality is that when the authorities abuse others the collective will suffer in one way or the other even if the people choose to acknowledge such or not. The main tool of Tinkhundla regime has been to divide and rule where the slaves are awarded varying importance. We ask if such was not the same modus operandi of the South African Apartheid regime where the black community was placed at the bottom of the racial chain and Indian and coloured where placed above them so slave could monitor slave while the elite race gorged itself on the resources that the earth provided.

Unity Is Strength
My name is Brian Ntshangase and I care not to memorise my prison number even though wisdom counsels me that I might need it in the near future. It is my counsel that now is the time that we should all work against the varying importance degrees that the regime awards us. That the comfortable positions we occupy today might be the perpetrators of our crucifixion tomorrow.  Such is none other than a tool to keep us divided and maintain us in perpetual enslavement. That the Mamba clan might be a little more important than the Tsabedze clan is nothing but maintaining a rank structure that has one serving the other and confusion on how important is one clan over the other. That people should spend time trying to establish their importance by trying to establish how well they are related to the royal family is nothing but foolishness.

Such serves to relegate the question to less relevant issues instead of asking why Mswati III’s salary is many times that of Barack Obama when almost three quarters of the Swazi Nation lives in poverty, or maybe to ask why over seventy members of the royal family get stipends for doing absolutely nothing while the elderly are given less than 25 dollars a month to survive on.

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