The African Law Service

The African Law Service brings diverse commentary on legal developments from across our African continent. 

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Lesotho Constitutional Court Repeals Criminal Defamation and Reaffirms Freedom of the Press

FREEDOM of the press and other media, as well as the safety of journalists, were all given a boost this week with a major new decision by Lesotho’s constitutional court. Three judges sitting in the high court’s constitutional division – Moroke Mokhesi, ‘Maseforo Mahase and Teboho Moiloa – have found that criminal defamation, long used as a threat against journalists and the media, is unconstitutional. This decision adds Lesotho to the growing list of African jurisdictions where criminal defamation has been repealed.

WHEN award-winning journalist and media owner Basildon Peta wrote and published a story about the supposed power of the then-commander of Lesotho’s defence force to boss the cabinet around, no-one missed his point. Using the verbal equivalent of a political cartoon, he pictured the general, Tlali Kamoli, interrupting a cabinet meeting and ordering that the ministers strip to their bare chests and do press-ups in the grounds of State House.

‘War against women’ with rise in gender-based torture

A judge in Zimbabwe has slammed fatal domestic violence against women as 'gender-based torture'. Sentencing a man who savagely murdered his partner the judge, Amy Tsanga, said women were 'clobbered, booted, strangled, stabbed or slashed to death' by their partners. Such attacks so often happened in their own bedrooms that these spaces had become 'a deadly environment' for women.

This article is re-published with permission from LegalBrief: Your Legal News Hub by Juta&Co.

 

War is being waged in the southern African region: against women. That’s the conclusion you could come to from regularly reading court decisions in this part of the continent.

PEN Report: Criminal Defamation is Used to Stifle Dissent in Africa

JUDICIAL independence and media freedom are usually linked. In countries where judges feel unacceptable levels of government pressure it is probable that journalists will be experiencing the same thing.

As far as journalists are concerned, criminal defamation is a serious problem hampering the media and undermining the watchdog role of journalists in many African countries. Typically, criminal defamation is used by political and business leaders in particular, to prevent journalists from investigating and writing about personal corruption, corruption in government departments or corruption in business.

African Judges Presiding over African Presidents

WHEN SA high court judge Themba Sishi entered the historic court room in the east coast city of Durban to preside in the corruption case of former president Jacob Zuma, he became one of a select few judges required to try an African president.

Zuma is now to have his day in court, after years of legal action to prevent that day from ever arriving. The charges relate to a multi-billion US dollar arms deal struck by SA and from which he is alleged to have profited corruptly via bribes paid to him by Schabir Shaik, a businessman already convicted and sentenced for bribery.

Ugandan Judge Sues Attorney-General

IN the struggle to ensure judicial independence judges sometimes have to take extraordinary steps. Over the last six months however none can have been more unusual than the litigation by Ugandan high court judge Joseph Murangira, which saw the judge suing Uganda’s attorney-general.

The case, heard in the country’s constitutional court, came out of a settlement order finalized by the judge. One of the parties to that dispute was a government department, and when the agreed amount was due to be paid, the Public Accounts Committee of parliament ordered the judge to appear before it and justify his decision. When he refused to do so the parliamentary committee made a report against him that was adopted by parliament, “purporting to veto” his decision in the high court.

Judge faces impeachment over drunken misconduct - 11 years later

WHEN SA TV viewers saw the video footage they could hardly believe their eyes: high court judge Nkola Motata had driven his Jaguar into the wall of a private resident in Johannesburg. Not just that. He was obviously drunk and disorderly, swearing at those who arrived to deal with the situation and resisting arrest. That was in January 2007. Since then the judge has been on suspension, with full pay.

ZIMBABWEAN IMMIGRANT BRINGS ABOUT LEGAL CHANGE IN THE UK

AFRICANS abroad sometimes make legal headlines – and even new law – while they are away from home. Carmel Rickard writes about a Zimbabwean in the UK whose landmark cases shows that judges may have to remind officials that the law is about nothing if not the truth.

THE man behind this extraordinary story is a 30-year-old Zimbabwean, known only as “JM”. Born HIV-positive, he struggled with health issues until, in 2002, he became really sick and his aunt advised him to go the UK and seek treatment there.

When he arrived, he said he was there for a holiday – clearly not true, said the court later, since he had gone for the clear purpose of finding treatment.

Kenyan court of appeal ruling

THE legal battle over the ongoing failures of Kenya’s government to obey court orders has taken a fresh turn. In a new and significant ruling, the court of appeal has refused an official petition: high ranking Kenyan officials asked the appeal court to stay high court directions that activist lawyer Miguna Miguna be allowed to return home.

THANKS to the firm line taken by three appeal court judges, activist Kenyan lawyer Miguna Miguna, deported to Canada last month under unprecedented circumstances, will now be able to return to his homeland on 26 March as he plans.

His forced expulsion from Kenya, carried out in flagrant contravention of judicial orders, led to several courts issuing decisions on his arrest and deportation. Among these was a crucial ruling by high court judge Luka Kimaru that Miguna must be allowed to return to Kenya – the land of his birth – at state expense, on a day of his choosing.

‘Cautionary rule’ victory for sexual assault victims

A dissenting judgment discusses the law on corroboration’ in sexual assault cases in Uganda.  The result is a landmark ruling for girls and women considering whether to lay charges against their attackers in cases of sexual assault. And it’s also crucial in the development of a jurisprudence that no longer discriminates against women. None of her colleagues objected to her separate judgment: clearly, they found it legally sound.

First published by Legalbrief 06 March 2018 and reused with permission.

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