Newsletter #4/2019
1 February 2019
African Judges in Action

Namibian lawyer tells national police chief: protect my client against abduction, rendition by Zim police

As the crisis in human rights and the rule of law continues in Zimbabwe, its impact – and growing condemnation of the government crackdown – has spread elsewhere in the region and abroad. In Namibia, an opposition MP, visiting from Zimbabwe, fears for his life after receiving information that a squad of Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organisation police have arrived in Namibia to abduct him. He believes the aim of the secret mission is to return him to Zimbabwe and put him on trial for treason. In other developments, confidential documents have been leaked by Zim police to The Guardian in the UK, showing police frustration at the impunity enjoyed by the military in the Harare area. And a ranking UK MP, Kate Hoey, has made a major speech condemning the Mnangagwa government for its dangerous infringement of the constitution and the rule of law.

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Malawi's courts will intervene, even in party political disputes - judge

As election fever hots up in Malawi, a high court judge has reminded political parties of something many would rather forget: that under certain circumstances the judiciary is obliged to hear and decide party disputes. It could not be denied that courts had jurisdiction over ‘political disputes’ raising issues of a judicial nature, he said. And, where appropriate, for example if a party breached its own constitution or acted arbitrarily, judges had to “do their duty” and hear such cases. The reminder came in a case involving contested primaries for the Malawi Congress Party.

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Zim judge presiding in controversial Lesotho murder trials, starts work

A number of controversial murder trials are about to get under way in Lesotho, presided over by foreign judges to ensure the cases are seen to be fairly conducted and without bias to either side. The murders allegedly involve high-ranking figures from the country's politicians, army and police as victims and/or assassins. The first cases were due to start last week under Jifa alum Judge Charles Hungwe of Zimbabwe, but they were delayed due to the absence of the defence lawyers for the accused. Other foreign judges are due to arrive in Lesotho soon, to share the load of the trials with Judge Hungwe.

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Reaction to shock suspension of Nigeria's Chief Justice

THE decision by Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, to suspend the country’s chief justice, Walter Onnoghen, has come under increasing criticism at home and abroad. Following the suspension of Nigeria’s judicial leader, his deputy as chief justice, Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed, was sworn in as replacement. But Buhari’s decision has sparked considerable criticism with commentators pointing out that it comes shortly before a critical election in which Judge Onnoghen could have played an important role.

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Bucking regional trend, Zim Court gives go-ahead to sue for adultery

Flaring political passions in the region continue to make news headlines, but the courts have been hearing about other kinds of passion as well. While Zimbabwe is alight with raging political conflict, and while citizens die at the hands of the police and security forces, the judiciary has been dealing with the burning issues of sex, adultery and maintaining the country’s “moral standards”. In a recent decision, the high court in Harare has held that a damages claim for adultery may go ahead. Judge Alfas Chitakunye decided a special plea by the woman with whom the husband in the case allegedly had an affair. While the woman claimed that for a number of legal reasons the court should not hear the matter, Judge Chitakunye said that public views and “the community’s general sense of justice” would not permit doing away with the delictual claim for adultery. In Swaziland, meanwhile, a magistrate and a court president have made headlines about their private lives. In a sensational case one accused the other of having an affair with his wife. After a child, now 15, was born of the affair, the matter was dealt with in the traditional way, with the royal kraal fining the offending man seven cattle.

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About Carmel Rickard

Carmel Rickard has written about the law, human rights, justice, judgements and judicial matters for many years. A former legal editor of The Sunday Times, South Africa's biggest newspaper, she is now a columnist on legal issues.

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JIFA · Democratic Governance and Rights Unit Room 7.03 Kramer Law Building · Middle Campus University of Cape Town 7708 · Cape Town, Wc S-7405 · South Africa

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