On 30 June 2012, I travelled from OR Tambo International to Sikuphe International in Manzini, Swaziland. A short flight from Johannesburg (barely enough time for a cup of coffee!) but quite far removed from Jozi’s mad pace.
The occasion for the travel was the launch of the SwaziLII Freedom Toaster. I was particularly excited because my colleagues and I had been bothering funders literally for years to fund a Freedom Toaster!
The Freedom Toaster was originally conceived and developed by the Shuttleworth Foundation as an initiative to deliver open source software to all. While most of the software is available on the internet, across Africa, restrictive bandwidth and the “pay-per-megabyte” telecommunications structure makes it impossible for many people to obtain information without paying for it. The original Freedom Toaster concept was necessarily expanded to enable the machine to become a delivery point for any open information. This was the purpose which we envisaged for the LIIs. Making information available free of charge, free of bandwidth restrictions on the Freedom Toaster is part of a greater effort to bridge the digital divide, empower people and – in this instance – provide access to the law for all.
And finally, Freedom House came through, funding not one, but three Freedom Toasters: one in Swaziland and two in Lesotho. Let me say it here so that there can be no mistake: these are the first Legal Information Institute Freedom Toasters in the world!
The SwaziLII team consisting of the Board, Nosisa Hlophe and Thoko Langwenya, had within the space of the 2 weeks since the installation of the Freedom Toaster, organized a wonderful launch event at the Royal Swazi Spa in Ezulwini (very appropriately meaning ‘Heaven’). Paul John Gioio from Breadbin Interactive had arrived a day earlier to move the Freedom Toaster from the High Court to the launch venue.
Figure 1: I loved the SwaziLII branded water. Sadly my bottle did not survive the airport security checks!
The event was well attended by the media and representatives from the legal community in Swaziland, including the Attorney General’s office and various ministries, the SwaziLII Board, Judges of the Supreme and High Courts of Swaziland, and Kerryn Shewitz from Freedom House. Proceedings were managed by Justice Nkosinathi Nkonyane who is also the chairman of the SwaziLII Board. Speakers at the event included:
The Deputy President of the Law Society, Ms Gigi Reid;
Kerry Anderson for AfricanLII;
Mr Majahenkhaba Dlamini, the Attorney General;
Chief Justice Michale M Ramodibedi.
A highlight of the event for me was when Ms Reid of the Law Society proclaimed the Freedom Toaster to be ‘Madame’ Freedom Toaster – surely anything this useful has to be feminine!
It was particularly significant for SwaziLII as well as the launch of the Freedom Toaster, that the Chief Justice attended and delivered the key note address. The full text of his speech is available here: http://www.swazilii.org/speech/speech-chief-justice-kingdom-swaziland-his-lordship-mr-mm-ramodibedi-during-official-launch-f .
The Chief Justice noted the launch of the Freedom Toaster as a milestone event since the inception of SwaziLII. At AfricanLII we are hoping this milestone event will also serve as the beginning of the rollout of LII Freedom Toasters across the region.
Thank you Freedom House for your vision.
Thank you Breadbin Interactive for your wonderful product and dedicated team.
Thank you Paul John Gioio for magically transforming problems into adventures.
Thank you SwaziLII for embracing the opportunities presented by this innovative technology.
Figure 2: The SwaziLII Launch Team
 Judge Nkosinathi Nkonyane (chairman), Mr Mpendulo Simelane (secretary), Mr Selby Gama, Mr Bheki Tsabedze, Mr Mndeni Vilakati, Mr Mbuso Simelane, Ms Elizabeth Matsebula, Ms Nonhlanhla Shabangu