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Newly ‘perfected’ death penalty decision shows all is far from perfect on Malawi’s apex court

It was an amazing glitch: though a majority of Malawi’s highest court was seen to have declared the death penalty unconstitutional in a decision delivered late April, the court now says this isn’t so. According to a ‘perfected’ version of the judgment, published this week, the lead writer of the April decision was expressing his own views on the death penalty, not those of his colleagues.

SADC loses appeal over unlawfully terminated contract with top tribunal official

Claims by senior Malawian judge, Charles Mkandawire, that his position with the Southern African Development Community’s now defunct tribunal was unlawfully terminated have again been upheld. Three judges of the SADC Administrative Tribunal’s appeal panel have dismissed an appeal brought by SADC, testing last year’s decision in favour of Judge Mkandawire, the original tribunal’s first registrar.

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The Southern African Development Community, having caved in to pressure from Zimbabwe’s former president, Robert Mugabe, to close down its Windhoek-based tribunal, has now been forced to face up to some of the financial and reputational consequences.

Ugandan court guts anti-porn laws women say oppress, rather than protect, them

Women’s organisations and several individual women in Uganda have challenged key parts of the country’s 2014 laws intended to deal with pornography. They claimed that, far from protecting women, the ‘overbroad’ laws had led to women being assaulted and literally undressed in public by men who claimed their dress was ‘too skimpy’.

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Uganda’s anti-pornography laws, in operation since 2014, have long been a problem for women. Almost from the day the new legislation became law, women complained that men used it to target and harass them for the clothes they were wearing. The law itself was referred to as a ‘miniskirt ban’ and it led to protests by women who said it dictated what was acceptable by way of dress.

Strong human rights judgment for prisoners in Lesotho

In an important human rights judgment, the high court of Lesotho has held that a former army commander, Tlali Kamoli, now a prisoner, refused bail and standing trial for murder and attempted murder, may attend the funeral of his son who died recently. The decision is important because Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane, who wrote the decision, stressed the principle that the human rights of prisoners had to be taken into account in making such a decision - and in fact did so in his judgment.

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In the introduction to his decision, Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane explained that the applicant in this case, Tlali Kamoli, in prison and waiting for the conclusion of his trial, had heard the news of his son’s death and had applied to attend the funeral.

Justice for Memory

Reports from Zimbabwe that a 14-year-old girl, Memory Machaya, died giving birth last month have inflamed social media in that country. Memory, whose family is part of an indigenous apostolic sect, was ‘married’ at 13 after her family forced her to leave school. She was buried within hours of her death, without any official investigation.

Read Zimbabwe constitutional court’s 2016 decision on marriage age


Historically marriages of black people were regulated exclusively by the Black Administration Act, 38 of 1927 (“BAA”). In terms of section 22(6) of the BAA, the default position for black couples was that their marriages were automatically out of community of property.

Relevant Factual Background

Major new development for law and rights related to African refugees, migrants

A new ‘centre of excellence’, focused on law that deals with refugees and migrants in Africa, was announced this week. Based at the University of Cape Town, the project has three major backers: the UNHCR (the UN’s refugee agency), the International Association of Refugee and Migration Judges and the Judicial Institute for Africa. Among its chief objects, the project will focus on university-certified training in refugee and migrant law for judges, magistrates and others working with refugees in Africa.

The UNHCR (the UN’s refugee agency), the International Association of Refugee and Migration Judges (IARMJ) and the Judicial Institute for Africa (Jifa), have committed to an exciting and potentially far-reaching new joint project: the establishment of a centre of excellence, based at the University of Cape Town, providing university-certified courses to judges around Africa on issues of asylum and refugee law.

Courts consider litigation by deaf drivers, TV viewers

The rights of deaf people have been considered by the courts in two recent decisions, one in Zambia and the other in the UK. In the first, the applicants challenged Zambian provisions in terms of which deaf drivers are not entitled to driving licences. In the second, a deaf woman claimed the UK government discriminated against her and others in her position by not providing a British Sign Language interpreter for government live briefings to the public about Covid-19.

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The decision in the Zambian high court case bitterly disappointed the executive director of Zambia Deaf Youth and Women (ZDYW), Frankson Musukwa. Acting on his own behalf and as a representative of ZDYW, Musukwa had hoped for much more from the case.

Uganda prepares for new law on ‘human sacrifice’: here’s what a case of ‘human sacrifice’ looks like

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has just signed a long-anticipated piece of legislation into law. The new legislation, aimed to deal with ‘human sacrifice’, was originally introduced as a private member’s Bill but won widespread support in parliament. Among other tough provisions, the new law prescribes life imprisonment for anyone found to unlawfully possess human body parts as well as ‘instruments associated with human sacrifice’.

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A recent news story, showing Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni holding a Bill he had just signed into law, will have astonished many of its readers. The headline said that the Bill signed by Museveni was a law on ‘human sacrifice’, and that with the new legislation it would be possible to send someone to prison for life if they had been involved in killing people ‘for rituals’.

State must take tougher steps to ensure people's fundamental rights are not violated - Kenya’s apex court

The supreme court of Kenya has delivered a significant judgment on the right to shelter. It involved people who had been living in two informal settlements since the 1960s, when it was effectively public land. In 2013, they were forcibly evicted by a private entity, the Moi Educational Centre, with the help of the state via the police and others. The high court found in favour of the people who were evicted, saying there was an ‘unapologetic admission’ by the Moi Centre that it had evicted the people and had their homes demolished, all without a court order.

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As the supreme court explains right at the start, this case concerns the interpretation of the right to accessible and adequate housing under the constitution’s Article 43 and, where a court finds violation of rights, the constitutional remedy of compensation.