MBABANE: Chief Justice Bheki Maphalala, the Chairman of the Judicial Service Commission(JSC)allegedly misled the King to sideline two senior and highly experienced Judges of the High Court in the recent Supreme Court appointments.
Judges Qinisile Mabuza and Mbutfo Mamba who have been described by lawyers as independent and senior were sidelined by the Chief Justice and or the JSC despite that they applied for the positions.
Reached for comments, Judge Qinisile Mabuza confirmed that she applied for the Supreme Court Judge position, she was called for an interview but has not been advised of the results of the interview nor has she received any rejection letter.
“It’s true that I applied for the position as Judge of the Supreme Court, however I was not considered. At the moment, I haven’t received any rejection letter explaining why my application was not successful" , said the Honourable Judge.
This is not the first time independent minded Judges are facing challenges within the Judicial system, Judge Thomas Masuku was persecuted, sidelined and subsequently fired by the King after a recommendation by then Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi, Masuku is now serving as a Judge of the High Court of Namibia.
A lawyer who spoke to this Swaziland News on condition of anonymity expressed serious concerns regarding the sidelining of senior Judges and lack of transparency in the appointments of the judicial officers.
“The interviews should be conducted publicly so we can all follow that the person who was eventually appointed made it through the question and answer process. As far as I understand the process should be transparent and competitive, we have not seen that. We don’t understand why senior Judges are not appointed and elevated to the Supreme Court because in a normal society that’s what you do, you appoint your most senior Judges to the apex court so that the mistakes by the lower courts could be corrected in the higher court. Now if you put junior lawyers in the higher court you are creating problems, some of these people are crawling, they are still trying to find their feet as Judges. So if these people who are still adapting to being Judges are appointed to the highest court, then there will be problems”, said the lawyer.
A questionnaire was sent to Chief Justice Bheki Maphalala, the Chairman of the Judicial Service Commission(JSC), however, he had not responded at the time of compiling this report.
An independent investigation by this Swaziland News uncovered that the crisis within the Judiciary has resulted to some Judges colluding with the Chief Justice by siding with the Government and royalty in their judgements so they could be considered for future appointments, the CJ doubles as Indvuna YeMcuba(Headman) at Kontjingila Chiefdom.
A prominent lawyer told this publication that some lawyers who seek justice for their clients normally filed their cases when Judges Mbutfo Mamba and Qinisile Mabuza among others are on duty.
"Lawyers now know Judges where they will get justice for their clients and they normally file their cases if Justice Qinisile Mabuza and Mbutfo Mamba are on duty. This is not fair for these Judges because they find themselves overworked with a lot of cases but that’s the reality, the justice system is dead" said the lawyer.
When reached for comments on Thursday, Judge Mbutfo Mamba, another senior and highly experienced Judge who was allegedly sidelined despite applying for the Supreme Court Judge position asked this journalist to call him later saying he was busy writing a judgement.
“Is it possible for you to call me tomorrow? I’m busy writing a judgement“, said the Honourable Judge.
But when this journalist called Judge Mbutfo Mamba again, his number was busy.
Speaking to this Swaziland News, Charity Simelane, the newly elected Secretary General of the Law Society of Swaziland(LSS) said they were yet to talk about this matter as a Council and asked not to comment at this juncture.
“We are waiting for a handover from the previous administration and we will then discuss such matters as a Council, at this juncture, I can’t comment or give you the position of the Law Society in this matter” said the newly elected Secretary General of the Law Society.
Judges Qinisile Mabuza and Mbutfo Mamba