The African Law Service

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

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Blunders set back fight against corruption

Namibia’s watchdog Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is in a great deal of trouble: a major bribery and fraud case, begun in 2009, appears to be imploding.

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For a country with a dedicated Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) as well as legislation and regulations to go along with it, Namibia is having a singularly difficult time prosecuting major corruption.

Reaction to shock suspension of Nigeria's Chief Justice

THE decision by Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, to suspend the country’s chief justice, Walter Onnoghen, has come under increasing criticism at home and abroad. Following the suspension of Nigeria’s judicial leader, his deputy as chief justice, Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed, was sworn in as replacement. But Buhari’s decision has sparked considerable criticism with commentators pointing out that it comes shortly before a critical election in which Judge Onnoghen could have played an important role.

International and local outrage has followed the shock suspension of Nigeria’s chief justice, Walter Onnoghen, by the country’s president, Muhammadu Buhari on January 25, 2019.

Lawyers across Nigeria held a two-day protest against what they termed the “illegal suspension” of the CJ, boycotting the courts for the duration of the demonstration. The protest was called for by the Nigerian Bar Association following a national emergency meeting called to consider the suspension, and it was widely observed.

Zim judge presiding in controversial Lesotho murder trials, starts work

A number of controversial murder trials are about to get under way in Lesotho, presided over by foreign judges to ensure the cases are seen to be fairly conducted and without bias to either side. The murders allegedly involve high-ranking figures from the country's politicians, army and police as victims and/or assassins. The first cases were due to start last week under Jifa alum Judge Charles Hungwe of Zimbabwe, but they were delayed due to the absence of the defence lawyers for the accused.

A string of controversial murder trials is about to get under way in Lesotho, under several foreign judges chosen to ensure that the cases are seen as unbiased.

Judge Charles Hungwe from Zimbabwe was the first of the judges to arrive in Lesotho late January. He has responsibility for drawing up the roll of cases for each of the foreign judges to hear. The cases are particularly sensitive because they involve senior military and political figures, either as victims or as assassins – or both.

Namibian lawyer tells national police chief: protect my client against abduction, rendition by Zim police  

As the crisis in human rights and the rule of law continues in Zimbabwe, its impact – and growing condemnation of the government crackdown – has spread elsewhere in the region and abroad. In Namibia, an opposition MP, visiting from Zimbabwe, fears for his life after receiving information that a squad of Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organisation police have arrived in Namibia to abduct him. He believes the aim of the secret mission is to return him to Zimbabwe and put him on trial for treason.

A prominent legal firm in Namibia has written to that country’s inspector general of police asking for action to protect a senior Zimbabwe opposition figure, Chalton Hwende, on holiday in Namibia. Human rights lawyer, Norman Tjombe, told Jifa that his client, still safe in Namibia at the moment, had received credible information that members of Zimbabwe’s intelligence agency, the much-feared Central Intelligence Organisation, had arrived in Namibia intent on abducting him and taking him back to Zimbabwe.

Bucking regional trend, Zim court gives go-ahead to sue for adultery

Flaring political passions in the region continue to make news headlines, but the courts have been hearing about other kinds of passion as well. While Zimbabwe is alight with raging political conflict, and while citizens die at the hands of the police and security forces, the judiciary has been dealing with the burning issues of sex, adultery and maintaining the country’s “moral standards”. In a recent decision, the high court in Harare has held that a damages claim for adultery may go ahead.

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Zimbabwe is burning, its social fabric in tatters as fatal political violence rages through the cities and countryside. But for a woman known only as AD, there are other priorities: her husband’s adultery and what the courts are going to do about it.

After discovering the alleged affair, AD brought a damages claim against the woman she identified as her husband’s partner in illicit sex, and is suing her for USD150 000

Give senior lawyer his current tax compliance certificate, high court orders

A PROMINENT senior lawyer in Kenya, Professor Tom Odhiambo Ojienda, has persuaded the high court in Nairobi to order that the country’s tax bosses give him a current tax compliance certificate, despite their earlier refusal to do so. The revenue authorities say the lawyer owes them a lot of money and so they won’t issue the certificate. But Ojienda told the judge he needed the certificate so that he could contest a seat he wants to keep – on Kenya’s Judicial Service Commission, the body that helps select the country’s judges.

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Professor Tom Odhiambo Ojienda is a familiar name in Kenya’s law reports. At the moment he is involved in several long-running disputes over his tax affairs, without any indication that these matters will be resolved any time soon.

Death penalty overturned for woman who murdered, dismembered husband

The appropriateness of the death penalty as a punishment for even extremely violent murder has been raised at the Supreme Court in Kampala. Members of Uganda’s apex court were considering the case of a 63-year-old woman who murdered and dismembered her husband. Though she was originally condemned to death, the five Supreme Court justices have replaced that sentence with a 30-year jail term.

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The facts of the case before Uganda’s Supreme Court were just about as bad as they could be.

The accused murdered her 65-year-old husband and when family and others asked where he was she pretended that she did not know. She even told their daughter that he “had other women” and might be with one of them.

Villagers' water pollution case should be heard in UK not Zambia, court hears

A major case on the environmental and human rights of villagers in Zambia was heard in the English courts over two days this week. The appeal concerns the question of where villagers, suing over the pollution of their water via mining action, may bring their dispute. They want the case heard in the UK while Vedanta, the parent company they are targeting, says the “natural forum” for the matter would be Zambia.

FOR almost 2000 villagers in Zambia’s Chingola region, this was a crucial week. A two-day hearing in the English courts could see them finally able to act against the mining outfit they claim has, since 2005, polluted their water and damaged their health, their lands and any prospect of earning a living.

Why Zambia's highest court found President Edgar Lungu eligible to serve another term

Zambia’s highest court has given the country’s president, Edgar Lungu, the go-ahead to serve a third term in office if he wishes. This judicial permission for the president to take a step regarded as contentious by many in Zambia, came by way of a judgment that had as its core the definition of a presidential “term”. The court found that a president may serve only two terms.

Read judgment on ZambiaLII here

 

IN a recent case testing whether Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu may lawfully stand for a third term in 2021, that country’s highest court had something to say about the problem of threats to the judiciary “related to matters before court” - though the judges did not say whom they had in mind.

Women Chief Justices in Africa: why are they under threat?

VERY, very few women in Africa hold the position of Chief Justice or deputy Chief Justice. On the last count, just five women hold these posts in the southern and east African countries we most regularly write about.  And yet two of these five women are under threat of prosecution or impeachment, while a third who has been facing an impeachment tribunal emerged unscathed last week. Against this background, the story of the inquiry into the Chief Justice of Seychelles, Mathilda Twomey, makes sober reading for the general public.

WOMEN in African’s top judicial positions will have been watching the case of their colleague, the Chief Justice of Seychelles, Mathilda Twomey, with more than keen interest. It is a remarkable fact that, of the southern and east African countries whose decisions we have been writing about recently, women hold top office in just a tiny number of countries. And yet most of these already few women are under scrutiny, facing threat of impeachment or prosecution.

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