Swaziland

Recusals in Swaziland and Lesotho: cause for concern?

RECUSAL of judges – when they should stand down, when not and if judges are always properly deciding whether to hear a case – has emerged as a serious issue in both Lesotho and Swaziland. In both those jurisdictions, decisions about recusal have left litigants worried that, with no judges available to hear their matters, they could have no access to justice.

SEVERAL cases in Swaziland have come to a halt over the last weeks because judges have recused themselves. Their decisions raise the questions whether they were correct to do so in the circumstances, and how litigation can proceed when judicial officers decline to hear a matter.

Without a written judgment on recusal decisions it is not easy to know whether the thinking measures up to constitutional standards, but in at least one case, the judges concerned are to be formally asked for reasons in writing.

Swaziland: Chief justice in stand-off with senior lawyer

ONE of Swaziland’s longest-serving attorneys has been banned by the chief justice from appearing in court or even lodging court papers. The chief justice says the attorney was in contempt of court because he disobeyed court orders to pay maintenance in a case where he was executor of an estate. Now the attorney has fired back, saying the move was unconstitutional and that he was denied a hearing: he wants the CJ investigated for misbehavior – and he wants to sue.

This is one of the most bizarre matters I have ever come across. First, it involves a decision by the chief justice of Swaziland effectively banning a lawyer from litigating in that country’s courts. And then, in response, the lawyer concerned has asked the minister of justice to convene an ad hoc committee to investigate whether the chief justice is guilty of serious misbehavior.

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