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Tuesday, 17 March 2009

SWAZI COURT DEFEATS GOVERNMENT

Swaziland’s High Court has ruled that the Swazi Government must abide by the kingdom’s constitution and introduce free education for all primary school pupils.


But we must wait to see whether Barnabas Dlamini, Swaziland’s illegally-appointed Prime Minister will abide by the ruling.


Dlamini has a history of ignoring court rulings that he disagrees with. If he decides he is above the law once more Swaziland could be thrown into a political crisis.


The High Court ruled yesterday (16 March 2009) that every Swazi child of whatever grade attending primary school is entitled to education that is free of charge. This means parents do not have to pay tuition fees or supply textbooks or any other ‘inputs that ensure access to education’.


The ruling came after the Swaziland National Ex-Miners Workers Association (SNEWA) had taken the government to court to compel Dlamini to adhere to Section 29 (6) of the constitution which states, ‘Every Swazi child shall within three years of the commencement of this Constitution have the right to free education in public schools at least up to the end of primary school, beginning with the first grade.’


As is becoming typical of the Swazi Government, it tried to put its own unique interpretation on the constitution and claim that it didn’t actually mean what it said.


According to the Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, the Education Minister Wilson Ntshangase refused to comment on the High Court ruling ‘until he was briefed’.


Although the ruling is clear cut it remains to be seen whether Barnabas Dlamini and his unconstitutionally-formed government will abide by it.


Dlamini has a poor record on the rule of law. In 2002, he refused to act on two rulings by the Court of Appeal which led to the resignations of all Appeal Court judges.


These days Dlamini tells Swazis and the outside world that his is a democratic government, (a ‘unique’ democracy that bans political parties and in which all important decisions are taken by King Mswati III, the last absolute monarch in sub-Saharan Africa).


We now await his next move. Whatever he does will define his government in the eyes of the watching world.

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