The African Law Service brings diverse commentary on legal developments from across our African continent.
This is a case with enormous implications for Eswatini women: three judges have spelled out the implications of the constitutional guarantee to equal treatment before the law. And they have definitively ruled that the common law doctrine of marital power discriminates against married women.
Among others, the now discredited marital regime offended the right of married women to dignity and to equality.
The eight applicants wanted the court to agree that they could represent the minority Hai||om people. That established, they wanted to claim the entire world-famous Etosha National Park – all 23,150 sq kms of it – together with other significant tracts of land. They said this was their ancestral land, and they were being prevented from using it. Failing return of the land, they wanted compensation in land or money.
Judges from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region met last week outside Cape Town for specialised judicial training in a growing field of law. The course, offered by the Judicial Institute for Africa (Jifa), was an introduction to environmental law, a subject many of the judges have not often needed to deal with before.
Magistrates in Lesotho are clearly unhappy. This year they have already tried repeated strikes to highlight their concerns but without success - promises made to them have come to nothing.
Then, this week, representatives of the magistracy from across Lesotho met in Maseru and took a number of decisions likely to impact on the functioning of the courts and the legal system throughout the country.
Judge Michael Ramodibedi, who died earlier this month, was appointed to the bench in Lesotho during 1986. During the next years, he also served as a judge in a number of other countries, authoring decisions in the Seychelles and Boswana among others. During 2008 he was elevated to the position of Lesotho’s Court of Appeal president, and at the same time he served on the court of appeal in what is now Eswatini.
Right from the start there is a lot about this case that is troubling. And Judge William Musyoka plunges right in. The case concerns the estate of Joseph Mapesa Nakuku who died in 1988. Bernard Mapesa, one of the sons and administrator of the estate, lodged a petition in the matter, saying he was ‘son of the deceased’.
His proposal was that the entire estate should be shared, unevenly, between himself and another son.
The ongoing crisis in Lesotho's judiciary, involving internal tensions as well as problems between the judiciary and the country's political leadership, has been taken off the boil - at least for now. This follows a last-minute settlement of several high-profile cases that, had they continued, would have destroyed all semblance of judicial independence and were set to create a constitutional crisis.