Latest Articles

Strengthening civil registration legislation for the prevention of statelessness

States must include safeguards to prevent statelessness in their civil registration laws and align registration procedures with their citizenship laws. Here, birth registration specialist Anette Bayer Forsingdal takes a brief look at the status of civil registration laws in Southern Africa and outlines some regional challenges in ensuring universal birth registration.

Steep damages against Kenyan media house as five advocates win defamation awards

A Kenyan media company has been punished by a series of high court judgments ordering that it pay what amounts in total to more than US$535 000 in damages for defamation against a group of senior advocates. The awards followed reporting by the company’s titles on the involvement of the lawyers in some high profile cases. The lawyers claimed, among other problems, that the articles were misleading and insinuated that they had obtained briefs improperly. One complaint, heard as a test case, was decided first, in 2020. The judge in that matter held that the advocates had indeed been defamed and should be awarded damages. Now a group of judgments in relation to the other defamed lawyers has been delivered, and the total damages’ payout so far ordered by the courts has shot up to Kshs 64,800,000, plus interest and costs.

Serious court efforts brought to hold public officers, top members of the Zim government administration to account, curb corruption

Zimbabwe’s 2013 constitution requires a law to be passed to deal with accountability and transparency among public officers as well as top members of government. But virtually 10 years since the constitution was enacted, there is still no such law. Now, efforts are being made through the courts to ensure that something is, at last, done about this fundamental constitutional requirement.

Free speech restrictions stressed by Eswatini’s election body make 2023 polls a ‘sham’

Eswatini’s election body has been challenged over recent comments by its chairperson that are seen as threatening free expression, the right to self-determination – and as even making upcoming polls a ‘sham’.

Safeguarding wildlife can mean danger, sometimes death, for local communities – and seeking compensation can prove difficult

Kenya’s national environment tribunals have been busy dealing with families suffering the effects of living close to wildlife. A series of recent decisions make clear how complicated it has become to manage human settlements that intersect with land on which wild creatures are also at home.

Judge says law on witchcraft reflects ‘western’ norms, not those of Eswatini. Supreme court disagrees

A potentially divisive judicial dispute over witchcraft in Eswatini has been nipped in the bud by that country’s supreme court. The debate emerged when a high court judge, presiding in a witchcraft-related murder trial, questioned whether the present legally accepted position that witchcraft is unreasonable and irrational, reflected ‘western’ views rather than the norms of the people of Eswatini. The judge then referred a question to the country’s highest court asking if the time hadn’t come to change the way the matter is handled. Instead of belief in witchcraft being a possible extenuating circumstance after conviction, should it not provide a ‘complete defence’ to a witchcraft-related murder? (Exactly what he meant by this was not spelled out, but it seems he was suggesting that the accused would then be acquitted.) Now three supreme court judges have given their answer: there is no legal basis to change the current precedent, they said. The three judges said that though many in Eswatini practised and believed in witchcraft, murder remained a very serious crime.

Namibian judge calls out police, army, impunity for assaults on the public

The Namibian police – long criticised for arbitrary brutality towards members of the public – have come in for some strong rebukes in a new decision by the high court. Dealing with the damages claim of a woman who was assaulted in an incident where she merely came out of her home to see the cause of a commotion, the court has slammed an ‘intolerable’ situation involving ‘prevalent’ assaults by police and members of the defence force on members of the public in Namibia. The court also questioned why the individual perpetrators were allowed to ‘disappear into the undergrowth’ instead of being held accountable for their actions.

In strong judgment, judge refuses 'sensitive' recusal application

A major new decision from Malawi’s high court on the vexed question of judicial recusal has laid down the law on the subject. It included strong words against the Anti-Corruption Bureau’s legal strategy – bringing a recusal application based on no arguments at all, but only a suggestion that the matter surrounding the appeal application was ‘too sensitive’ even to give reasons. Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda, who wrote the decision, also spoke more widely and slammed dissatisfied litigants who threaten ‘physical violence’ against judges or ‘resort to dastardly and primitive schemes of staging road accidents’ intended to cause judges grievous harm, or even to ‘assassinate’ them.

Former minister refused bail pending appeal after conviction, sentence, over theft of laptops destined for poor schools

A new judgment from the high court in Zimbabwe shows the country struggling with corruption, even at the highest level. But it also highlights a loophole in the law that has seen many people, once convicted and sentenced, apply for bail pending appeal, only to disappear and never hand themselves over, if they lose on appeal.

Ugandan forest dwellers still struggling for compensation, 21 years later, after being forcefully evicted from land given them by Idi Amin

The spectre of Uganda’s former president, Idi Amin, hangs over a case involving 2500 forest dwellers who are in continuing dispute over compensation for their eviction from forest land. They have been trying to get satisfaction from the courts since 2001, so far without success, even though the high court made a significant compensation award in 2019. Now the appeal court has refused the attorney general’s application to be allowed to introduce new evidence for the appeal due to be heard against the high court’s order. Turning down the application, the appeal court said it was clear that the AG wanted to use the application to put up evidence which ought to have been produced before the high court, but which wasn’t brought to that court, despite the AG being given ample time and opportunity to do so. One of the noteworthy features of the case is that the validity of the claim hangs at least partly on whether Amin granted the villagers the land from which they were later evicted.