Latest Articles

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.

Congolese woman convicted and sentenced for smuggling immigrants into Namibia

A former refugee from Congo has been found guilty on three charges relating to smuggling immigrants into Namibia. Abigail Bashala, who gave the court a list of illnesses with which she is afflicted as part of her evidence in mitigation, took money from desperate people to help them get into Namibia and to travel to Canada, though the flights to Canada never materialised. The court found she was part of a syndicate that preyed on people desperate to escape from war and start a new life.

Convictions overturned after 'merciless' torture finding by Ugandan high court

Elements of the Ugandan state have been found by the high court’s anti-corruption division to have been responsible for brutal torture aimed at extracting confessions from two employees of the Uganda Revenue Authority. Judge Lawrence Gidudu, head of the country’s anti-corruption court, awarded compensation and punitive damages for the torture, but also asked some questions about the handling of the two tortured detainees that the authorities will find uncomfortable and difficult to answer. The judge further ruled that the conviction of the two men be set aside on the basis that no conviction may result in a case where torture has been used to extract a confession.

Activist for women’s rights called ‘violent’ because she used local word for vagina on protest placard

A women’s rights activist in Malawi, Beatrice Matweyo, found by the high court to have been wrongly arrested during an anti-gender-based violence protest, has now been slammed for having carried a placard with a slogan including the local word for vagina. Lilongwe’s high court assistant registrar said the use of this word amounted to violence against women, and thus awarded her merely a nominal amount for her claim for punitive damages. Mateyo had claimed damages for false imprisonment and punitive damages as well as compensation for the violation of her constitutional rights. The registrar had the task of assessing the damages she should be awarded.