Establish Commission of Inquiry on “justice for sale” allegations



BY : ZWELI MARTIN DLAMINI

When Chief Justice Bheki Maphalala demanded evidence from the President of the Law Society of Swaziland Mandla Mkhwanazi regarding the ‘justice for sale’ allegations, it became clear that the problem within the country’s justice system was deeper to warrant the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry. The Commission should consists of credible international Judges and its terms of reference should include investigation of corruption within the law enforcement agencies being the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), the Royal Eswatini Police Service (REPS) and the Law Society of Swaziland (LSS) among others. These are some of the institutions that complete our justice system and there is no way Judges can be labeled as corrupt without the involvement of officers from these organizations.

It very disturbing to note that the “justice for sale” sentiments came from lawyer Mandla Mkhwanazi whose Law Society ran to court to stop an investigation by Parliament regarding public outcry on the misappropriation of monies by corrupt lawyers. Now, for the LSS to accuse the CJ of selling justice to the rich leaves more questions than answers on how this could manifests without the collusion of lawyers who represents the litigants.

It should be noted corruption, like any other criminal activity usually involves more than one person and in this regard, only an independent Commission of Inquiry could provide a platform for the presentation of evidence substantiating that indeed, justice is for sale in this country. It was wrong for the Law Society to stop an investigation regarding the conduct of lawyers only to come back this time around and accuse Judges of corruption and or selling justice to the rich. Any investigation is a tool of collecting facts. In executing this function properly, however, the investigation can achieve purposes beyond simply collecting facts. In particular, an investigation acts as deterrence against impropriety and or commitment to accountability. It was therefore unjust for an organization such as the Law Society that should be a playing a vital role in the fair administration of justice, to then obstruct a process of investigating the conduct of lawyers. This country is dominated by corrupt thieves that include lawyers, journalists, politicians, Judges, members of the royal family among others. Therefore, no corrupt individuals should be allowed to abuse his or her connections in the media to tarnish the images of others corrupt fellows. It becomes strange when lawyers like Mandla Mkhwanazi dominate pages in the newspapers accusing Judges of corruption when in fact the Law Society is one of the most corrupt organizations in the land.

On the other hand, the Chief Justice was wrong to demand evidence from Mandla Mkhwanazi on the grounds that the CJ, by virtue of being the head of the Judiciary was legally obligated through Section 49 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 2006 to report allegations of corruption to the ACC for investigation purposes. The CJ could have thanked the Law Society for bringing such allegations to his attention and promised to launch an investigation not to be arrogant and point figures to the equally corrupt Law Society. But where we have two suspects being the LSS and the CJ accusing each other of wrongdoing, an independent Commission to investigate the allegation of corruption in the administration of justice becomes an alternative solution. Even thou the CJ was accused by the lawyers of meeting litigants behind the scenes to discuss matters pending in court, he also made a valid point, accusing the Law Society of failing to act on lawyers who swindled their clients monies with impunity. Indeed, in the absence of an independent investigation, it would be difficult to know whether Mandla Mkhwanazi was not abusing his powers as President of the Law Society to tarnish the image of the CJ for demanding that action be taken against lawyers to swindled clients.

Let me emphasize that in this country, we have people who uses their connections in the media to portray others as corrupt when in fact they are the masterminds of this scourge. I am always worried about lawyers who are always in the media, strategically promoting themselves complaints against their conduct rotting in the files of the Law Society.

The CJ might not be clean as our judiciary continues to sink under his administration, but let us not ignore his sentiments on the conduct of corrupt lawyers in the country. It should be noted that when we accuse the judiciary of corruption we are actually referring to the police, lawyers, prosecutors, there is no way Judges and Magistrates could be singled out without the collusion of these officers of the courts.

However, because in this country we have an equally corrupt, bias and hostile media, we might be told that only Judges and certain Magistrates stand accused of selling justice in the country, that cannot be true. It was unjust for the Law Society that refused to be investigated by Parliament to then take advance of the media presence in the official opening of the High Court and accuse the CJ instead of adopting appropriate measures to deal with the challenges. As the situation stands, the sentiments of the LSS President lowered public confidence in the judiciary that was already on its knees. It’s true that we have a serious problem of corruption within our justice system but we need to guard against accusing one person for the mess that is now rooted. We blamed ex CJ Ramadibedi on similar allegations before, what happened thereafter? If we were in a country that promote transparency, openness and good governance, we would be having two separate Commissions of Inquiry, one to investigate the fitness of Bheki Maphalala to hold office with the other probing the serious allegations of justice being for ‘sale’. But then, the media was quick to calm the situation by saying the CJ and LSS smoked peace pipe, how can that be after such serious allegations that undermined the integrity of the Judiciary? Is it because both parties don’t want their skeletons to come out? Time will tell.