Apex courts in two African countries try to avoid ‘absurd results’ in labour matters

Time limits on filing appeals and reviews can bring litigation to an abrupt end when they are not observed. But what is a court to do if it is not clear when the time limits actually start. The apex courts of two African jurisdictions have found themselves dealing with exactly this question – when do the days of a time limit begin to run? And the question was made even more complicated because the high courts in both countries had produced two contradictory positions from which the apex courts had to choose.

Read Eswatini Supreme Court judgment

Read Tanzania Court of Appeal judgment


By a strange coincidence, the highest courts of Tanzania and Eswatini have found themselves delivering judgment on a virtually identical problem within three days of each other.

Attorney, fugitive from justice, sues Chief Justice but loses

The case of Siboniso Clement Dlamini has caused ructions in Eswatini’s legal circles for some time. Now three members of the high court have laid down the law. Dlamini, one of the country’s longest-serving attorneys, has been fighting to have the Chief Justice investigated for misconduct because the CJ barred Dlamini from appearing in any court until he submitted himself to prison as punishment for contempt of court. At the heart of the matter is Dlamini’s handling of a deceased estate – and a widow who is clamouring for her inheritance.

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When Martin Ndzinisa died in 2001, Siboniso Dlamini handled the deceased estate. Many years later, however, and the widow, Phindile Ndzinisa, has seen not one cent of the E910 000 received by Dlamini’s trust fund on behalf of the estate.

Widow's rights upheld in customary law dispute

Customary law, at its best, is said to ensure that orphans and widows are cared for. But this is not always the case. That, at least, has been the experience of an elderly widow in Eswatini. Though she married into a royal household, when her husband died her circumstances became dire. She found her brother-in-law had his eye on her late husband’s property and he would not even allow her to construct a new outside toilet for her homestead. Now, however, three judges of Eswatini’s supreme court have granted her an interim interdict against her brother-in-law.

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Ethel Dlamini’s dispute with her brother-in-law, like many court cases, not only resolves a particular legal dispute, but also throws light on the real-life experience of people you might not otherwise come across.


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