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Zambian high court scraps lawyer from the roll of practitioners for dishonesty

A Zambian legal practitioner who failed to pay over money from his client intended to settle a bank loan, has been disciplined by the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) and has now been struck off the roll of practitioners by the high court. This was despite the disgraced lawyer’s claim that his client had settled matters amicably and that there was now no dispute between them. The court held that this did not matter: the court and the LAZ were obliged to investigate the lawyer’s behaviour regardless of whether the original complaint was withdrawn or not.

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It’s not often that courts are called upon to decide whether to remove a lawyer from the roll of practitioners. When it does happen, it’s such a public event, and with such potentially disastrous results, that you can be sure the lawyer concerned will put up a fight.

Malawi high court judge on anti-graft unit’s powers

In a major new decision, the high court in Malawi has clarified a number of issues critical to the country’s criminal justice system. The decision comes in the wake of attempts by a former cabinet minister, Kezzie Msukwa, dismissed because of corruption charges against him, to challenge the basis on which investigations into his alleged wrong-doing were carried out.

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The arrest of Malawi’s former minister for lands, Kezzie Msukwa, on corruption charges at the end of December 2021, could hardly have been more dramatic: He was stopped and arrested outside the hospital where he had gone for treatment for hypertension and blood pressure that was ‘out of control’. The arresting officers then handcuffed him

Court chides counsel for ‘scurrilous allegation’ against newly-appointed judge

Counsel for a former presidential adviser on strategy, charged under Malawi’s anti-corruption laws, has come in for a tongue-lashing over the argument he put up in a judicial review application. During the course of the corruption trial so far, the presiding magistrate, Patrick Chirwa (pictured), was appointed as a judge of the high court. Counsel for Chris Banda, the accused, wanted a different magistrate to take over the corruption trial, but the magistrate, now a judge, said he would continue hearing the matter to completion.

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When Lilongwe chief resident magistrate Patrick Chirwa was appointed to the high court bench, he could never have imagined the stir he was about to make in legal circles because of his decision to finish hearing an important matter in the magistrate’s court.

Top court delivers major victory for Zimbabwe’s children

 A new decision by Zimbabwe’s constitutional court (a separate chamber of the supreme court), has found sections of the criminal law unconstitutional because it completely fails to protect children aged 16 – 18 from sexual exploitation. The judgment also found sections that permit child marriage, involving children under 18, unconstitutional. The new judgment contains a harsh critique of an earlier high court decision that found the criminal law was valid, even though it did not conform to the constitution.

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Zimbabwe’s constitutional court has found that a law permitting sexual activity from age 16 is unconstitutional. This is because the constitution insists that only those over 18 should be considered adult.

Amnesty International death penalty report: a time for judges to reflect

In prisons across Africa, many thousands of prisoners sit on death row, uncertain whether they will be allowed to live. But as the numbers of condemned prisoners climb, with an estimated 5 843 awaiting execution in prisons all over Africa, debate over the death penalty is also growing. The newest report from Amnesty International, released this week, shows some stark contrasts.

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The publication of Amnesty International’s annual report seems a moment to reflect on the deadly seriousness of a judicial officer’s task.

As always, this year’s report contains sobering statistics on the numbers of people around the world awaiting execution or who have already suffered the death penalty.

Lesotho’s CJ fights back after apex court’s critical judgment

The Chief Justice of Lesotho, Sakoane Sakoane, has reacted sharply to a judgment by the country’s appeal court that found he ought to have recused himself from presiding in a major treason and murder trial. The court found that the prosecution’s claim to have a reasonable apprehension of bias by the CJ was well founded, and ordered that another judge take over the trial. But in reaction, the CJ has questioned whether ‘foreign’ judges ought any longer to preside over cases heard in Lesotho.

Lesotho CJ ‘wrong’ to punish lead counsel in high profile murder, treason case – appeal court

A new decision from Lesotho’s highest court has made some uncomfortable findings about the country’s Chief Justice, Sakoane Sakoane. Three judges from outside Lesotho, brought in to hear the matter to ensure there could be no allegations of partiality given those involved, found that the Director of Public Prosecutions was not unreasonable in her apprehension of bias on the part of the CJ.

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A fractious dispute between Lesotho’s Chief Justice and the Director of Public Prosecutions has been decided by the Court of Appeal: three foreign appeal judges found the CJ had shown a pattern of conduct from which it was reasonable for the DPP to conclude that the CJ was possibly biased against the DPP and its lead counsel, controversial SA advocate Shaun Abrahams.

Judges recall when their lives were threatened during contentious legal challenge in Malawi

Two participants at a human rights training course for judges from 11 African countries, held in Cape Town mid-May, have first-hand experience of what making a bold human rights decision may sometimes demand. Judges Michael Tembo and Redson Kapindu were both on the bench, part of a five-judge panel in what they say was, without doubt, the most significant case in Malawi’s history.

Judges Redson Kapindu (who helped present the human rights training course) and Mike Tembo, are both members of Malawi’s high court, and were part of the five-member bench that heard a most significant case.

Following presidential elections in May 2019, they had to decide a challenge to the poll’s validity, litigation that raised the political temperature in Malawi to boiling point.

Another ‘No’ for Eswatini’s LGBTI community

A new judgment from Eswatini’s high court effectively supports a decision by the registrar of companies who refused to register an association called Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities. Two judges of the three-court bench held that the registrar’s decision had been properly made. In a dissenting decision, the third judge approached the question very differently.

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This case concerns Eswatini’s LGBTI community. Eagerly anticipated by both sides of the argument, it must have been something of a disappointment to all involved that judgment was delayed for so long.

Right at the start of the decision, however, there’s an apology seeking to explain why the matter, heard 18 months ago, was not handed down earlier.

State of the judiciary: new report on Malawi, Namibia, South Africa

For many judges it will come as a relief to hear some good news for once, in the form of largely positive public perception about the judiciary and its role in society. The good news emerges from a just-published report on the state of the judiciary in Malawi, Namibia and South Africa. Every member of the bench in those three countries will be only too well aware of the short-comings of their own judicial system, exacerbated by the restrictions imposed by the Covid pandemic, among a number of other problems.

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One of the key issues on the minds of everyone concerned about justice in the three countries examined by the new report, Malawi, Namibia and South Africa, is the extent of corruption, perceived or real, in the legal system, the courts and the judiciary.

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