Issues around elections continue to be heard by the courts. This time the case concerned a scandal that was brewing in 2002, about the malfunctioning IT system that was supposed to compile a national voters’ register for Uganda’s then pending election. Members of the consortium that seemed unable to sort out the register brought a defamation action against the publication that broke the story. But the court found the report was truthful and accurate and that the public needed to know the information as the success of the election was at stake.
Tanzania’s Criminal Procedure Act includes provisions that automatically refuse bail to people charged with certain offences. Earlier this year the high court found that mandatory prohibition of bail was unconstitutional. The court's decision restored discretion to the judiciary and meant that the question of whether to grant bail, whatever the alleged offence, would have been a matter for the individual judge to decide. But the high court finding was overturned by the Court of Appeal this week. Five judges of the appeal court said mandatory barring of bail did not amount to an ouster clause, and that the constitution was not infringed by making certain offences ‘unbailable’.
Parents of children at a private school in Kenya have won an interim high court order in what promises to be a significant constitutional dispute related to Covid-19. The parents say they should not have to pay full fees for the third term of the 2020 school year and that the school may only charge for the services offered, namely for ‘virtual class or digital calls’. For its part, the Sabis International School, Runda, objected to the legal action brought against it by parents of children attending the school on the grounds that the parents had signed a contract with the school that was ‘private’, and that the court ought thus ‘not to intervene in these private matters’. Last month Kenya’s education secretary George Magoha said that the rest of the 2020 school year ‘will be considered lost’ because of the pandemic and that schools would only re-open in January 2021. Those due to write final exams would sit them next year.
The Young Lawyers Association of Zimbabwe scored a victory of note this week. The Zimbabwe Republic Police had issued a press statement on 25 July, listing in minute detail the documents that would be required at checkpoints throughout the country, with immediate effect. But the legal organisation challenged the lawfulness of the police action and were granted an interim order barring the police from demanding the documents listed in the press statement.
An important new set of principles on the proper financing and resourcing of the judiciary has been issued by the Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association (CMJA). The principles, issued this month, are likely to prove just as influential as the Commonwealth (Latimer House) principles dealing with the accountability of and relationship between the three branches of government. They are a timely contribution to the debate on judicial funding, given that the judiciary in a number of African countries is struggling to obtain the funding needed – and the number of judges required.