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Malawian law students lose their challenge to Covid-19 university closure

A group of four students studying law in Malawi have lost their high court case challenging the validity of the President's Covid-19-related directives. They also lost their challenge to the closure of their university in terms of those directives. But it was not all bad news for them – at least the students won commendation from the presiding judge for ‘taking their future seriously’.

Read judgment by Judge Zione Ntaba, 7 April 2020

Read judgment by Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda, 3 April 2020

 

Controversial Lesotho PM prorogues Parliament, gets taken to court

Lesotho’s Prime Minister, Tom Thabane, has signed papers suspending parliament for three months. He cited the coronavirus pandemic to explain his decision. Ironically, a full-on legal application contesting the validity of his Covid-19-based decision, was heard in a virtually empty court due to steps aimed at containing spread of the disease. But the case also marked a significant step for the country’s broadcaster which, for the first time, carried a court hearing live on national television and radio.

 

When Lesotho’s Prime Minister Thomas Thabane wrote to King Letsie III on March 20, explaining why he wanted parliament to be suspended, he said it was a necessary part of the fight against the coronavirus.

He cited the World Health Organisation which advises against large gatherings to help avoid spread of the virus.

Fix laws or face huge damages claims – judge warns Malawi lawmakers on the state of Covid-19 disaster legislation

In a long and highly unusual judgment, a judge of Malawi’s high court has shown that the country’s legislation is completely unprepared to manage the coronavirus pandemic, and without the appropriate regulations or, in some cases, even appropriate laws. The judge made these findings in a case that concerned 10 Chinese nationals visiting the country. In a series of steps by officials of Malawi’s immigration and citizenship services some were deported, while the remaining four are still in Malawi although attempts were made to send them back to China.

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The decision delivered by Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda in this case is long, dense and in parts highly unusual in style.

In view of the significance of the judgment, for Malawi and other countries needing to make regulations to manage the coronavirus pandemic, this discussion of the judgment is longer than usual. It is divided into three parts:

1. The story of the Chinese visitors and initial argument in the case they have brought

Court slams lawyers for not having COVID-19 permits to appear in case

A South African judge has strongly criticised a group of lawyers who appeared in an urgent case that, among other things, dealt with access to water by residents of a municipality affected by a political dispute. The judge said that the lawyers were irresponsible and unprofessional because they had not obtained the permits required to attend a court case under COVID-19 lockdown regulations.

Thai judge dies after second suicide attempt

The Thai judge who attempted suicide in court during October 2019, has died after shooting himself in the heart. Judge Khanakorn Pianchana was protesting at what he said was interference in a politically-charged trial over which he presided. His death last month has been marked by statements of sympathy and concern by a number of international human rights organisations.

Judge Khanakorn Pianchana, 50, had been serving as deputy presiding judge of the Yala Provincial Court.

In October 2019 he made world headlines when he claimed to have been ordered by a more senior judge to re-write a decision in which he acquitted five people charged with murder. Judge Khanakorn found there was not enough evidence to convict the men. They had allegedly been connected with an insurgency in the south of the country.

Judge rejects bid to stop upgrade of 'elite' hospital in Zimbabwe

The High Court in Zimbabwe has rejected an attempt to stop the refurbishment of an incomplete and deserted hospital and make it available for patients ill with Covid-19. The Rock Foundation Medical Centre, sometimes called the Arundel Mediclinic and Arundel Hospital, has been at the centre of a major row, with many government opposition members saying the ruling party was renovating the place for the use of the political elite.

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The contentious upgrade of a hospital in Zimbabwe is being driven by a businessman and financier who is also a prominent supporter of the ruling Zanu-PF, Kuda Tagwirei. His Sakunda Holdings have taken over both the Rock Foundation centre and St Anne’s, a second hospital in Avondale, also in the capital Harare.

No protection in Zim for pangolin, alleged trigger of world's coronavirus pandemic

Scientists increasingly believe that pangolin meat might have been part of the trigger for the deadly coronavirus. In this case the pangolin would have been bought in a typical Chinese market where illegally obtained wildlife has been an everyday element. But though that news has given new impetus to wildlife protection, it turns out that there is no proper legal protection for the pangolin in Zimbabwe.

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Just as the whole world discovers that pangolin meat could have triggered the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe, it has emerged that Zimbabwe’s legislation offers no real protection for the species.

Human rights fightback as security forces take abusive action under cover of COVID-19 regulations

As the security forces of some African countries take abusive action against people under cover of Covid-19 lockdown regulations, human rights groups have begun to fight back. Prompted by complaints of serious constitutional rights' violations – beatings, torture and other humiliating treatment – Kenya’s law society has brought a petition to the courts, and a human rights organisation in South Africa has done the same.

Sierra Leone scraps ban on pregnant schoolgirls going to school

In a major policy shift, the government of Sierra Leone this week announced that it had agreed to change the law and allow pregnant schoolgirls to continue attending school. The issue has divided society in that country, with the previous government taking a strong stand against mothers-to-be being permitted to go on attending lessons in mainstream schools. However, the new government that took office about two years ago has shown itself willing to make changes on the issue.

Read government announcement

Link to AfricanLII story on ECOWAS Court decision 

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