Law

It's been a week now since the Swazi parliament voted overwhelmingly to boot out the country's Cabinet. And yet nothing has happened. MPs remain steadfast in their determination to remove the executive, while the widely-loathed Prime Minister remains in office - as do his equally unpopular ministerial colleagues. And King Mswati III remains silent and undecided. Meanwhile, Swaziland suffers - adding a constitutional crisis to its already existing economic, social and judicial crises.

You can always tell when President Mugabe is really rattled. It's when he launches into a tirade about white, racist, imperialist conspiracies in a desperate attempt to deflect attention away from the facts. It has worked pretty well for him in the past but his latest rant only served to highlight the issue he currently wants to bury - the state-sanctioned torture of opposition supporters and the fact that those responsible might now be brought to book in South Africa.

You'd think after the last few years of increasingly autocratic government that Malawians would be keenly interested in anything that might help to entrench the rule of law, and secure the independence of the judiciary - so that there are enough checks and balances to prevent the country from ever returning to the bad old days of Bingu.

While anyone interested in justice and tackling the culture of impunity around crimes against humanity that still prevails in Zimbabwe celebrated yesterday's landmark ruling by the South African High Court, one man was vociferous in his condemnation of the judgment - Zimbabwe's very own (in)Justice Minister, Patrick Chinamasa.

In all the justified furore about the absurd arrest of a Zambian opposition leader for referring to President Sata as a sweet potato (or defaming him if you have (a) lost touch with reality or (b) are in the upper echelons of the police or ruling Patriotic Front), a crucial issue has been largely overlooked.

Want to know how to curry favour with Swaziland’s King Mswati? The best way to butter him up? Just ask Michael Ramodibedi, who has just presented Africa’s last absolute monarch with three cows. Clearly he is very keen to stay in the king’s good books, which in Swaziland is sensible (just ask the civil society leaders who are in the king’s bad books) but which in any democratic society would be a serious problem because Ramodibedi is the country’s Chief Justice.

The indefensible decision by a magistrate in Harare to convict the 'Egypt 6' forconspiracy to incite public violence is another devastating blow to hopes of a genuine transition to a freer, more democratic and more open society in Zimbabwe - and a fatal blow to the rule of law in the country. The magistrate was clearly following poiltical orders since even a cursory examination of the 'evidence' shows that the six (Munyardzai Gwisai, Tafadzwa Choto, Tatenda Mombeyarara, Edson Chakuma, Hopewell Gumbo, and Welcome Zimuto) had less than no case to answer.

Some statements really do beggar belief. Like Zimbabwe's (in)Justice Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, suddenly announcing that he had discovered corruption within the country's judicial system. Better late than never, you might say.

Politicians are nothing like leopards. Most of them change their political and ideological spots all too easily - particularly opposition politicians who suddenly find themselves in government. But it is difficult to think of anyone who has changed his spots quite as radically as Zambian President, Michael Sata.

Zambia’s Technical Drafting Committee deserves a very loud and sustained round of applause. As well as the vocal support of people across Zambia and, indeed, across southern Africa.

Because the members of the committee tasked with drafting the final version of Zambia’s new constitution have done something that very few officials, technocrats or bureaucrats ever do – they have refused to bow to the illegitimate demands of the authorities and have sided, instead, with the wishes of the public rather than the president.

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