The judicial system in Swaziland continues to come under international scrutiny with Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi filing a notice of appeal against the release of the Nation editor Bheki Makhubu and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko.
Unconfirmed reports state the chief justice has signed new warrants of arrest for the two. Makhubu and Maseko were released by high court Judge Mumcy Dlamini on Sunday after spending 20 days in custody on contempt of court charges relating to articles published in the Nation magazine condemning the arrest of government chief vehicle inspector Bhantshana Gwebu while the case was still pending.
The inspector stopped a government vehicle driver ferrying high court Judge Esther Ota, allegedly without official documents. In its February issue, the magazine criticised the arrest as an abuse of authority, which the authorities claimed interfered with the court proceedings, hence the contempt charges.
Maseko and Makhubu were arrested on March 18 and later arraigned by Chief Justice Ramodibedi in his chambers. However, Judge Dlamini ruled that the chief justice had no power to issue warrants of arrest, which lay with the magistrate”s courts.
Justice Ramodibedi filed a notice of appeal on the grounds that Judge Dlamini erred and/or misdirected herself in assuming review jurisdiction on the matter and in sitting in judgement over the decision of the chief justice, which he says can only be overturned by the Supreme Court.
The chief justice also says that Dlamini erred and/or misdirected herself in failing to appreciate the basic fundamental principle that contempt of court is sui generis and hence does not fall under the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, therefore the court was entitled to devise its own procedure in self-protection.
He also argues that Dlamini erred and/or misdirected herself in the circumstances in setting aside his warrant of arrest.