When money in a Namibian national student assistant fund went missing, siphoned off into the bank accounts of someone who was not registered as a beneficiary of the fund, alarm bells rang. An internal investigation pointed to a payments officer being responsible for the fraud, but he resigned before a disciplinary hearing could be finalised. The fund then sued the former employee and this case has begun in the high court, Namibia. However, when the fund closed its case after two witnesses had given evidence, the former employee applied for absolution from the instance – but the judge, Boas Usiku, wasn’t persuaded.
The 2022 report from Transparency International, ranking the world’s states according to their perceived levels of corruption, has a few surprises. This latest index from TI lists Denmark as the least corrupt country in the world – but several states in Western Europe have scored markedly worse than before. In Sub-Saharan Africa, Seychelles once again tops the score-sheet for the region, while Somalia scores the lowest not just in the region, but in the world. Apart from its index, the report also discusses the role that factors such as conflict play in a country’s level of corruption.
Zambia’s court of appeal has dealt with a sensational murder and arson case in a recent decision that highlights two problems. First, the court’s judgment of 16 December 2022 upheld the death penalty imposed on a woman accused of murdering her gym instructor boyfriend by setting him alight. Just days after the appeal court’s decision, however, Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema finally abolished the death penalty, leading the justice minister to comment that from now on, no court could impose the death penalty. The new appeal judgment thus highlights the problem of death row convicts whose sentences must be reconsidered now that the death penalty has been scrapped. The second issue relates to when a mandatory life sentence may be imposed for arson. In this case, the appeal court used the opportunity to explain to other courts the circumstances under which such a sentence may be imposed. The appeal court said this was the first time an appellate court had interpreted this section, and it had thus deliberately analysed the provisions to provide guidance to trial courts for the future. Apart from these technical issues, the judgment also laid to rest the claim of the woman convicted of murder in the case – namely, that her boyfriend had set himself alight, angry over her refusal to end a pregnancy that medical tests subsequently showed did not exist.
A flood of shocked, sometimes angry, sometimes despairing, often challenging, responses has followed the murder of Eswatini human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, last weekend. From embassies to human rights defenders in remote parts of the continent, all have paid tribute to this extraordinary man and his dedication to the task of ensuring justice and democracy for the people of his home country.
A magistrate in Malawi, who presided over a sordid sexual scene in his office, has been taken to task by a high court judge. Judge Zione Ntaba ordered that the rape trial being heard by the magistrate, and of which the office scene had ostensibly formed part, should start again under a different presiding officer. The behaviour of the initial magistrate has also been reported to the judicial service commission. Judge Ntaba used the opportunity presented by the case she was reviewing, to spell out best practice in relation to gender stereotypes, judicial bias and other key issues.