The editor of a Swaziland newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III has written an attack on the kingdom’s Chief Justice after he issued a directive relating to the Swazi Royal Family.
This comes after two journalists were jailed for two years for writing and publishing articles also critical of CJ Michael Ramodibedi.
Alec Lushaba, editor of the Observer on Saturday, wrote in the newspaper, ‘I am aware that in recent times, when the media has commented on issues that touch upon the judiciary, it has attracted all sorts of reactions including prosecution.
‘Let me state here and now that neither jail nor persecution from the court will silence us in performing our duties as responsible citizens. The day we would be indifferent to the decisions or actions of the judiciary we would be all dead. As citizens we are affected or impacted positively or negatively by what they do or don’t do.
‘I am a born and bred Swazi and proud of it. I offer no apologies for being one.’
He went on to criticise the Chief Justice for issuing a ‘Practice Directive’. It read, ‘Henceforth the estates of members of the Royal family, princes, princesses and chiefs duly appointed by His Majesty the King and iNgwenyama shall be distributed after consultation with the King’s Office. By copy hereof the attention of the King’s Office is hereby drawn to this Practice Directive.’
Lushaba commented, ‘In fact, the Chief Justice has no business in operational or legislative matters. His is to uphold the Constitution and offer interpretation of the law.’
He added, ‘What the Chief Justice has done is tantamount to a decree. By writing and directing the office of the Master of the High Court what to do with estates of princes, princesses and chiefs was now usurping powers he does not enjoy, which are both legislative and Executive. He has no business on such.’
The criticism of CJ Ramodibedi comes two months after Bheki Makhubu, the editor of the Nation magazine, and writer and human rights journalist Thulani Maseko, were jailed for two years after they wrote and published articles critical of Ramodibedi.
Sentencing the pair in July 2014 High Court Judge Mpendulo Simelane said, ‘the Constitution does not grant an absolute right of freedom of expression’.
In his judgment, Judge Simelane said by writing and publishing the articles, ‘The Accused persons scandalized, insulted and brought to disrepute the dignity and authority of the Chief Justice.’
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