Monday, April 16, 2012


Evidence that King Mswati III of Swaziland has full control of the judiciary in his kingdom emerged this week when he ordered the High Court to drop a case concerning a disputed chieftaincy.

King Mswati, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, instructed the Attorney General Majahenkhaba Dlamini, who is himself a member of the Swazi Royal family, to tell the High Court to drop a case in which two factions were disputing who was the rightful chief in the Nkhaba area.

In Swaziland, chiefs are a direct link between the king and his subjects. They are often seen as speaking on behalf of the king and people who live in chiefdoms are often referred to as the chief’s ‘subjects’.

The Swazi News, an independent newspaper in the kingdom, reported that the attorney-general conveyed the king’s order to the High Court that the case should be dropped with ‘immediate effect’. It reported that the king instructed the matter should be dealt with by ‘traditional authorities’ and not the law court.

The Centre for Human Rights (CHR), Swaziland, in a statement, said the case proved, ‘how the Swazi monarch continues to interfere in the operations of the judiciary in Swaziland’, despite in the past giving assurances to the United Nations that it would not.

The CHR said, ‘The judiciary continues to suffer from within and without. As recently as 2011, lawyers took to the streets, boycotted Supreme Court sessions, boycotted all courts in the land because of a judicial crisis that was sparked by Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi's interference in the running of the courts, and how individual judges deal with specific matters.’

It added, ‘In this latest move to undermine the judiciary, royal orders from His Majesty King Mswati III were conveyed to the court by the Attorney General, himself a member of the royal family, to the effect that the court should immediately stop dealing with the matter. The matter would instead be dealt with under customary structures.

‘This violates the rights of the litigants to a fair hearing, to choose the forum that will determine their case and it further erodes any hope that the individual in Swaziland has any remedy in case of a violation.’

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