Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Is it any surprise that high court judges are excusing themselves from the case against Swaziland’s Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) that was supposed to start yesterday (11 November 2008)?

Put simply, the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO) and others are saying that the EBC which ran the Swazi elections in September 2008 was formed unconstitutionally because its members were not appropriately qualified.

But there is a hidden agenda at play. King Mswati III appointed the members of the EBC and if the High Court sides with SCCCO it will in effect be saying that the king acted unconstitutionally. And in Swazi culture that would never be allowed to happen.

To a legal outsider like myself it seems an open and shut case. The constitution says that the EBC chair should be a judge and the king appointed Chief Gija Dlamini, who is variously described as an electrician or an electrical engineer. Whatever his real life job title is, he certainly isn’t a judge and therefore, not qualified.

Of course, the king ignores the constitution whenever it suits him. Only last month he appointed Barnabas Dlamini Prime Minister, even though the constitution states that the PM must be a member of the House of Assembly. Barnabas Dlamini wasn’t elected, indeed he didn’t even stand.

So are the judges running scared? So far two have excused themselves. Judge Jacobus Annandale excused himself because Chief Gila Dlamini is chief where the judge lives and (I suppose) he feels he can’t give unbiased opinion. Whether that means he is likely to be biased in favour or against the chief, I’ll leave for you to decide.

The Times of Swaziland reports today (12 November 2008) that another judge, Judge Mbutfo Mamba, has excused himself because he is friends with one of the applicants.

The search is now on to get a full bench of three judges, it remains to be seen who is brave enough to sit in judgement of the king.

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