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MBABANE – Supreme Court Judge Robert Cloete has hung up his robe.

Cloete, who was known for coming hard on lawyers who appeared before the Supreme Court not fully prepared, has resigned on medical grounds.
An illness resignation letter is an acceptable form of notification to your employer and is helpful when you need to convey to them your health problems are preventing you from performing the day-to-day responsibilities of your job. Before his appointment as a judge of the apex court, Cloete was in private practice, running a law firm where he handled a number of high profile cases. He had occupied the bench for over four years after having acted as a Supreme Court judge on diverse occasions. Cloete is the second judge in the country to resign on medical grounds after former Chief Justice (CJ) Richard Banda, who was from Malawi. Banda was succeeded by the now late Michael Ramodibedi.

In a brief interview on Friday, Cloete confirmed his resignation, which he said was on medical grounds. He said he was currently in the Republic of South Africa for medical check-ups. Before responding to the question, Cloete wanted to know from this journalist, where he had obtained the information that he had resigned on medical grounds from.“Yes, I have resigned on medical grounds and I am currently in the Republic of South Africa for medical check-ups. I will be back next Sunday,” said Cloete.  An in- depth interview will be conducted with the judge upon his return from South Africa, where he is expected to narrate his experience as judge of the apex court. The resignation of Cloete leaves the Supreme Court with five permanent judges, and these are; Judge Majahenkhaba Dlamini, Judge Stanley Maphalala, Judge Sabelo Matsebula, Judge Jacobus Annandale and Chief Justice (CJ) Bheki Maphalala. This means there is now a vacant post in the Supreme Court. Some of the appeals where Cloete formed part of the bench was that of former Swaziland Royal National Airways Corporation(SRNAC) General Manager Charles ‘Ace’ Jele.


The judge has resigned at a time when the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has been making a number of acting appointments of judges of both the Supreme Court and the High Court, which was something that was met with resistance from the Law Society of Swaziland (LSS) JSC Acting Secretary Siphiwo Masuku, when reached for comment on Cloete’s resignation, said: “No comment.” Cloete’s resignation comes at time when the CJ is at loggerheads with the LSS over a number of issues. This is, however, not to suggest that his (Cloete) departure has anything to do with the conflict between the CJ and the LSS. One of the issues which the LSS has raised was that of the establishment of the Commercial Court, which they alleged was unconstitutional.

Lawyers have resolved not to appear or participate in the operations of the Commercial Court, because they believed its formation was unconstitutional and its decisions would be invalid. The resolution by the lawyers was communicated by the Council of the LSS in a statement issued last week. The LSS further resolved that in the event the issue of the establishment of the Commercial Court was not resolved by engagement, it would institute urgent court proceedings to declare its establishment invalid and unconstitutional.

They also took a decision to file a complaint against the CJ in terms of Section 158 of the country’s Constitution. Section 158 of the Constitution deals with the removal of judges of the superior courts. The LSS said it had observed the continued violation of the Constitution, allegedly by the CJ, when making acting appointments of judges and magistrates. In response to the LSS concerns, the JSC also issued a statement where it unequivocally stated that the Commercial Court had been established in accordance with the constitution after necessary consultation  According to the JSC, the president of the LSS was allegedly asked by the CJ to make written submissions but he allegedly did not do so. In a press statement, the acting JSC secretary, Masuku, alleged that on March 11, 2022, that the CJ consulted with members of the LSS in his chambers and invited them to make contributions on the establishment of the court. This was, however, dispute by the LSS.

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