Friday, July 1, 2011


There’s an interesting contrast in the way Swaziland’s two newspapers have reported the suspension of High Court Judge Thomas Masuku in their editions today (1 July 2011).

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, has ignored the point that Masuku is alleged to have insulted the king. The Observer does this even though the full story has appeared in international media and on Internet sites.

The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, in contrast gives full details of what it is that Masuku said about the king.

For readers who haven’t been following this story in minute detail, here’s an extract from the Times today.

The ‘insult’ is contained in a judgement Masuku delivered on 11 January 2011.

The Times reports, ‘It was a case between Mkhondvo Aaron Maseko and the Commissioner of Police Isaac Magagula. Maseko sought an order directing the police to return his cattle which were seized from his kraal by the police who were heavily armed. He said they accused him of having stolen them from the King. Maseko argued that it was wrongful for the police to seize his 32 cattle without a court order.

‘He said they were armed with a letter from the King’s office, claiming it authorised them to attach the cattle. They claimed that they had been directed by the King to do so.

‘Judge Masuku in his detailed judgment directed the police to return the 32 cattle to Maseko because they were not authorised by a court order.

‘The police commissioner filed an appeal before the Supreme Court, through the Attorney General’s office. The matter at the Supreme Court was presided over by the Chief Justice Ramodibedi, sitting with Judges Ahmed Ebrahim and Dr Seth Twum.

‘Ramodibedi ruled in the commissioner’s favour who had argued that the cattle were not in the police’s possession, but had been taken to a King’s Farm. He had argued that the police only acted as agents to ensure peace and order. He had also said the police had just accompanied Macaleni Dlamini who is in charge of the King’s cattle.

‘In his judgment, Ramodibedi warned Judge Masuku for language he used in his High Court judgment. He said Masuku used intemperate language with reference to the King.

‘Ramodibedi has said Judge Masuku’s statements, where he used “forked tongue” referring to the King was insulting to the Head of state. In the judgment he had said, “It is an inappropriate language which does not belong to the King’s own loyal subjects. Such language must be deprecated in the strongest possible terms. To say that I was horrified by the use of this language is probably an understatement.”

‘This is an extract of Judge Masuku’s judgment, referred to by Chief Justice Ramodibedi as insulting to the King.

‘“It would indeed be surprising if His Majesty would have directed as alleged that the applicant’s (Mkhondvo Maseko) cattle should be seized at all and as it was, under the barrel of a gun without any due process of the law. I say so considering His Majesty’s public remarks, of which this Court can take judicial notice, such as during the recent opening of the Hluti Magistrates’ court and the Police Station on or about September 28, 2010, where he stated unequivocally in the presence of inter alia: the Judiciary, Executive, Parliamentarians and the Police, that the Swazi people must avoid taking the law into their own hands. The actions of the police and Macaleni in this context, are in direct contradiction to His Majesty’s directive to the people of Swaziland and it would be hard to imagine let alone accept and thus incomprehensible that His Majesty could conceivably speak with a forked tongue, saying one thing to his people and then authorising his officers to do the opposite. I reject this notion as totally inaccurate and wrong, and which cannot be properly apportioned to the venerated office of His Majesty.”’

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