The editor of Swaziland’s only independent comment magazine is in the Swazi High Court charged with scandalising the judiciary.
Bheki Makhubu is answering charges of contempt of court over two articles he published in the Nation magazine in November 2009 and February 2010.
In the articles Makhubu praised Judge Thomas Masuku for coming up with a dissenting Judgment from two Supreme Court judges in cases relating to evictions from land controlled by King Mswati III.
Masuku was subsequently sacked as a judge because it was deemed in his judgement he insulted King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
Makhubu is also alleged to have insulted the Swazi Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi, the man who sacked Masuku.
Makhubu also called upon newly appointed judges to uphold the Constitution.
In the High Court yesterday (6 February 2012), Attorney General Majahenkhaba Dlamini said the articles scandalised the courts.
Makhubu denied contempt of court. According to local media reports, he said the theme of the November 2009 article was the role of the Judiciary in enforcing and protecting the Constitution. He said it was inspired by the appointment of new judges of the High and Industrial Courts.
Makhubu criticised the Judiciary for having ‘stayed away’ from the constitutional process the country was going through. He also said members of the public would be looking up to the new judges to help them understand what it meant to live in a constitutional state.
Advocate Gilbert Marcus, on Makhubu’s behalf, said the article read in its entirety supported the principles of Constitutionalism and the rule of law. He also said it underscored the importance of the Judiciary in upholding the Constitution.
He further submitted that Makhubu’s article stressed the potential of the Constitution and the Judiciary to have a direct impact on the lives of the people.
Attorney-General Dlamini said the articles had, ‘sinister imputations and that is not good.’
He said that contempt ought to be punished so that courts could function without interference.
The case continues today (7 February 2012).