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Swaziland Judicial Crisis Timeline

By 22 April 2015January 19th, 2023Civic Rights, Criminal Justice, Eswatini3 min read

Caroline James

22 February 2013

Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi, appeals a decision by the Swaziland Revenue Authority (SRA) to tax him on a gratuity he received and to impose a tax rate of 33% (as opposed to the 15% he had previously been taxed).

26 February 2015

The matter is heard by Judge Mpendulo Simelane who rules in Ramodibedi’s favour. The SRA requested that Judge Simelane recuse himself on the basis that he had been the High Court Registrar when the SRA case first was brought before Court, and that he had attended meetings and sent letters in relation to this case in his capacity as registrar.

The SRA argued that the Chief Justice was resident in Swaziland for the purposes of tax and so was subject to the 33% tax bracket, and that the gratuity owing to the Chief Justice at the conclusion of his contract constituted part of his remuneration and so was taxable.

26 February 2015

Judge Simelane held that it was unconstitutional to impose a 33% tax rate on the Chief Justice as it amounted to unfair treatment, and that the gratuity was a non-discretionary part of the Chief Justice’s contract.

For Judge Simelane’s judgment click here

18 March 2015

Members of Parliament voice their unhappiness at the trend in the Swazi High Court that politically sensitive matters (including the SRA case, as well as various cases against political activists) are always allocated by the Chief Justice to a set of judges who appear invariably to rule in favour of the Chief Justice. The MPs were concerned that this resulted in predictable decisions, which brought into question the independence of the judges concerned.

For more information, see here

17 April 2015

Judge Stanley Mphalala issues a warrant of arrest for Chief Justice Ramodibedi and High Court Judge Mpendulo Simelane. The judges face 23 charges, including defeating the ends of justice and abuse of power. This includes the fact that the Chief Justice allocated his case against the SRA to Judge Simelane despite a conflict of interest as Simelane had been involved in that case before it got to court in his position as registrar of the High Court.

For more information, see here

18 April 2015

Judge Jacobus Annandale visits the Chief Justice at home and attempts to rescind the warrant of arrest for Ramodibedi.

For more information, see here

20 April 2015

Judge Mpendulo Simelane is arrested and charged with defeating the ends of justice as a result of his refusal to recuse himself in the SRA case.

Judge Jacobus Annandale is arrested and charged with defeating the ends of justice as a result of his rescission of the arrest warrant for the Chief Justice.

Minister of Justice, Sibusiso Shongwe, is arrested by the Anti Corruption Commission and charged with corruption in connected with an amount of E2 million (equivalent to R2 million) that was not accounted for in his law firm’s trust account.

High Court Registrar Fikile Nhlabatsi is arrested on charges of defeating the ends of justice for allegedly waving a fake order rescinding the warrants of arrest against the Chief Justice and Judge Simelane.

For more information, see here and here.

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