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Sunday, 3 January 2010

SWAZI ARMY COMMANDER ‘ABOVE LAW’

The top Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force commander is operating above the law and may be a danger to the kingdom.


He disobeys legitimate court orders and acts outside the law.


If he is capable of doing these things what else might he do?


These are the concerns of the Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper.


In a profile of Lieutenant General Sobantu Dlamini, Army Commander, the Times says it is ‘tragic that in the last few weeks, the emerging trend has been that the army lives in its own world, with its own rules, disciplinary procedures and general way of life’.


The newspaper continues, ‘A few weeks ago, this very newspaper reported that three junior army officers were making attempts to go back to work.


‘Mpendulo Mngomezulu, Nkosikayikhethi Nxumalo and Vusumuzi Hlatshwayo were arrested a few years ago for allegedly stealing government fuel.


‘The matter went to court because the army realised the alleged act was criminal and the police had to be involved.


‘The court cleared the trio and ordered that they return to work.


‘The Army Commander, probably after consulting his own deputies, came back with his own verdict: The three men stole the fuel and were caught red-handed. They cannot go back to work!


‘Sobantu hinted, when our reporter raised the issue of a Court Order, that such documents were not enough where the army was concerned.


‘The question is: why did the army opt for the legal civil route if it was not going to adhere to the ruling?


‘Then again, what if the court had sentenced the soldiers to, say, three years in jail each?


Would Sobantu have come out to say, “No, actually these soldiers should not go to jail. We do not care much about rulings in the army?”


‘Sicelo Shongwe’s matter is another case in point.


‘Arrested in 2002 for attempted murder, he was cleared by the courts, which automatically meant he had to go back to work.


‘Shongwe had been arrested and charged after he borrowed a home-made gun from a resident in the northern Hhohho to shoot an alleged dagga dealer who was trying to smuggle the illegal herb into South Africa.


‘The bullet from the gun ricocheted, hitting one of the people at the scene.


‘He was cleared of the charge of attempted murder because he had no intention to harm the person who was ultimately hit by the bullet.


‘This is a 2002 incident but still, he is not at work. Army authorities do not want him back.


‘The last story appeared in the Times of Swaziland on Wednesday, two days before Christmas (2009).


It is the sad story of one Sandile Dlamini, who built a big house in Logoba, near Matsapha but could only watch while it was demolished this past week.


‘Sobantu Dlamini allegedly ordered the demolition - verbally.


‘There was neither any court nor eviction order.


‘Sandile is said to have built the house on land that belongs to the king.


‘His claims, to the effect that he got it though the customary kukhonta and has witnesses to prove it have fallen on deaf ears.


‘Sandile is taking the matter to court but if past scenarios are anything to go by, does he have any chance, whether he wins or loses?


‘How many have taken Sobantu to court and came back to claim victory?


‘Will the Army Commander abide by any ruling the court could make on the matter?


‘What if he doesn’t?


‘Will it just be another day in good old Swaziland?


‘Questions, questions but the most important one of all is: If the Army Commander will have no regard for our courts, what else is he capable of?


‘If he will verbally instruct his subordinates to go and demolish a man’s house without following a legally laid down procedure, what else could he send them to do?


‘If he is capable of giving off-the-cuff orders to his juniors and they are capable of taking those instructions without any qualms or further prodding, what else will he instruct them to do – now or in the future?


‘If the courts are useless establishments to the army, what mechanism is there to rein in the fallible-as-everybody-else commander when he breaks the law?’the Times concludes.

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