Govt to appoint Swazi CJ
BY MBONGENI NDLELA
MBABANE – Government has assured that by next month, the Kingdom of Swaziland will have a Chief Justice (CJ) whose appointment will be in line with dictates of the national constitution.
The constitution stipulates that by July 26, 2012, at the latest, a Swazi should be holding the position of CJ.
Currently, Michael Ramod-ibedi, who was born in Lesotho, is the Chief Justice in Swaziland.
According to the constitution, seven years from its promulgation, the person occupying this position should be Swazi.
Lorraine Hlophe, secretary to the Judicial Service Commission says the commission is ready to announce the new Chief Justice.
Hlophe said the JSC was ready to comply with the constitution which dictated that a person who was not a citizen of Swaziland shall not be appointed as a justice of a superior court after seven years of the commencement of the constitution.
The country’s constitution came into force on July 26, 2005. It will be seven years old on the same date next month.
The appointment of a Swazi CJ and other judges would be in compliance with Section 157 of the constitution.
Interviewed on Thursday, Hlophe said the JSC would also make an announcement on the other judges.
"The JSC is ready and aware of the constitution. We are working to comply with the constitution clauses and we are adamant that soon, we will announce the new CJ and the judges," she said.
Asked to give the exact time frame, Hlophe said the JSC was hoping to make the announcement on the last day stipulated by the constitution.
This would be July 26, 2012.
She, however, asked not to divulge the names of possible candidates earmarked for the positions but stated that the JSC had made its consultation and has names.
Meanwhile, the sitting CJ asked not to comment on this issue.
He was contacted in his capacity as chairman of the JSC.
"I am in a meeting now. However, issues that have to do with appointment of judges can be communicated with the secretary of the JSC. Speak to Lorraine Hlophe," he said.
Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, said his ministry would let the public know when a Swazi-born CJ had been appointed.
"It is clear who the appointing authority is," he said. "Once the appointing authority has appointed someone then as government we would alert the public. For now, we cannot bypass the appointing authority and start working on what the constitution says about the appointment of a Swazi CJ."
The minister said government was also aware of what the constitution says about the appointment.
On March 30, His Majesty the King extended Ramodibedi’s contract.
When announcing the extension three months ago, government spokesperson Percy Simelane said Ramodibedi had been given a conditional contract, as opposed to a fixed one.
Explaining the difference, Simelane said a fixed-term contract clearly specified when the contract would come to an end, which was not the last case in the contract given to Ramodibedi.
Simelane said when it was noted that his contract was coming to an end, it was decided that he be given an extended term which would come to an end immediately when a new and preferably local Chief Justice was appointed.
Meanwhile, Minister Chief Mgwagwa dismissed allegations that Ramodibedi had since been granted Swazi citizenship.
The Times SUNDAY asked the minister about this because it has been a long-standing rumour that Ramodibedi had applied for Swazi citizenship.
"I explained this when I was still the Minister of Home Affairs. There was no application or any approval of citizenship for the CJ. I can still say today that there is no such a thing. In fact, I don’t want to comment on a non-existing matter," he said.
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