24 August 2011
Legal Profession Links Arms with Mass Movement : Mobilises Against Illegal Regime in Swaziland!
If an indication were needed to show the continuing crisis that is unfolding in Swaziland, it was provided today on the streets of Mbabane. In an unprecedented mobilisation, a very large section of the usually passive legal fraternity took to the streets, and linked arms with trade unionists, political activists, student leaders and others from civil society to express their complete frustration with the manipulation of the Swazi legal system.
Before the ink had dried on the agreement to grant a R2.5bn bailout to the regime from South Africa, attacks were being made on key legal personalities, including Justice [Thomas] Masuku. He had been suspended and faced charges because he was not prepared to bend the rules in favour of the Royal Elite. Justice Masuku has received tremendous support from the legal fraternity. He is known as a person of integrity, and his stand has inspired a new generation of lawyers to join the democracy campaign. In court last week, the arguments of the Chief Justice, serving as judge, jury and witnesses, were roundly defeated, and it has become abundantly clear that only a radical reform of the justice system will save it from the gross manipulation underpinning the case against the Judge.
Lawyers, legal officers, and those employed in the legal profession gathered in their numbers in Coronation Park at 10am this morning. Speakers were heard from Trade Unions, the Law Society, banned Political organisations and many others. The police were clearly paralysed by the size and the character of the mobilisation. The gathering caused a standstill in the middle of Mbabane and received a very warm response from local people as it marched to the Ministry of Justice to hand over a petition demanding the following :
1. Prosecution and determination of the complaints levelled against the Chief Justice by the Law Society of Swaziland in terms of the provisions of Section 158 of the Constitution of Swaziland.
2. For the dissolution of the Judicial Services Commission & removal of Mrs. Lorraine Hlophe as self or unconstitutionally appointed Secretary of the Judicial Services Commission.
3. For the appointment and establishment of the Judicial Services Commission Secretariat in terms of Section 161 of the Constitution of Swaziland.
These demands amount to a complete rejection of a justice system in Swaziland that is manipulated to silence and isolate those who challenge the status quo, whether they are trade union leaders, student activists, banned political leaders or even Judges. It is also an indication that the political and economic crisis is affecting all layers of society, and that only accountable and democratic governance can protect and develop a legal system that serves all of the people equally and fairly, and not just a small corrupt and wasteful elite.
The Swaziland Democracy Campaign congratulates the legal fraternity for making a public stand and welcomes it to the struggle for a new Swaziland. We hope that by linking arms with civil society, the legal fraternity will continue to make a vital contribution to a new and democratic Swaziland.
OUTCRY OVER JUDGE’S SECRET HEARING