In Swaziland, police men in bullet-proof vests, armed with shotguns and tear gas canisters, invaded a meeting of lawyers in the country’s High Court. The lawyers were meeting to discuss their on-going campaign to get Michael Ramodibedi, the Swaziland Chief Justice removed from office. The lawyers have a raft of complaints about Ramodibedi, which include allegations of sexual harassment, abuse of financial resources and concerns over the way he organizes the judicial system in Swaziland.
Reports in the Swazi media say the Chief Justice himself ordered the police to break up the meeting. He claimed the lawyers did not have permission to hold their meeting in the High Court building.
The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, reported the lawyers ‘vehemently demanded that the officers tell Ramodibedi to come out of his chambers and address them, instead of sending the police. “We will not listen to you (the police) but we want the CJ to come and address us on the eviction,” insisted a fuming lawyer.’
The Times reported, ‘The lawyers, however, vowed they were not shaken by the police threats and said, “Lock us inside the court, use teargas or call the OSSU (riot police), but we will not leave the court. We are prepared to be beaten for our rights. At least the world will know that the country’s justice system has crashed.”‘
The meeting went ahead despite the police invasion – the lawyers simply asked the administration of the High Court for permission to meet and this was granted.
But, Chief Justice Ramodibedi imposed the condition that the police intelligence unit was also allowed to be part of it. Lawyer Zweli Jele was quoted by the Times saying, ‘We have no problem with that, they can be part of the meeting. Anyways there is nothing secret here. The issues discussed are known by everybody that lawyers want Ramodibedi removed from office.’