For all its constitutional commitment to the equality of women, South Africa still experiences difficulties when it comes to matters of traditional leadership. That’s because these are often resolved at the local level in a way that assumes women are ineligible for traditional leadership roles. Take for example the question of who should fill the vacant Vhavenda throne. The Supreme Court of Appeal was asked to decide whether the traditional council acted in a way that promotes gender discrimination and, in answering that question, the court has now given a potentially far-reaching judgment.
Namibia's top court has delivered a decision giving notice to the country's intelligence services that they, too, fall under the aegis of a constitutional democracy. The case concerned material collected by an investigative journalist that appeared to show the Namibia Central Intelligence Service (NCIS) was involved in corruption. But when he asked for comment he was informed that publication of his proposed story was unlawful, and the NCIS then went to court to enforce that prohibition. This week's judgment gave the Supreme Court an opportunity to explain that even the NCIS was bound by the values of an open and democratic society and could not count on the courts' blindly agreeing to banning publication even where 'not a scintilla of evidence' was provided to show that prohibition was necessary. If genuine grounds to prevent publication existed, however, these could be raised with a court behind closed doors.
When a death row prisoner has his date with the executioner commuted and starts a lifelong relationship with the inside of a prison instead, he will usually continue to explore every avenue to escape a prolonged life behind bars. Those explorations seldom amount to anything, but in the case of two prisoners waiting out their life-term in a jail in Kenya, luck – and a failure of Parliament to sort out a conflict of laws – was on their side.
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Malawi's high court judge Zione Jane Veronica Ntaba is no stranger to controversy. Among her decisions she found her country's Chief Justice, Andrew Nyirenda and the whole of the Malawi Judicial Service Commission had acted irregularly, illegally and unconstitutionally. Now she has made another noteworthy decision, turning down a request to have the second half of a potentially sensational trial broadcast by the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation. Here’s the background – and her reasons.