Bheki Makhubu, the editor of The Nation, Swaziland’s only pro-democracy news magazine, faces two years in jail after being convicted of contempt of court for criticising the kingdom’s chief justice.
Makhubu was fined E200,000 (US$22,000) to be paid within three days. If he fails to pay the fine he will be sent to jail for two years.
Makhubu was sentenced today (17 April 2103) by the Swaziland High Court. Later, writing on Facebook, he said he ‘died a little this morning from the brutality of the sentence’.
High Court Judge Maphalala said some of Bheki’s writings were ‘treasonous if not subversive in the extreme’.
Makhubu was convicted of Contempt of Court by Scandalizing the Court after the Director of Public Prosecutions complained about two articles written by Makhubu and published in November 2009 by Swaziland Independent Publishers (PTY) Ltd. The court found they had a ‘tendency to bring the administration of justice into disrepute’.
Judge Maphalala said Makhubu accused the Supreme Court ‘of not being impartial and that their decision not to allow multipartism in this country was actuated by an improper agenda which they were pursuing and that it was not based on law and their conscience’.
The Judge ruled, ‘Such a publication has a tendency of bringing the administration of justice into disrepute.’
Judge Maphalala said that a second article by Makhubu, ‘is a scurrilous attack on the Chief Justice [Michael Ramodibedi], as a Judge of this court.
‘The article unlawfully and intentionally violated and impugned his dignity and authority; it was calculated or intended to lower his authority and interfere with the administration of justice.
‘They accused the Chief Justice of behaving like a high school punk, a street punk; and that he lacked decorum and integrity and that he was extraordinarily arrogant. He was further accused of contesting the political position of the highest authority in the country by calling himself Makhulu Baas; this allegation is treasonous if not subversive in the extreme.
‘Similarly, it was alleged that the Chief Justice does not inspire confidence to hold such an office in the judicial hierarchy and further doubted if his appointment was eligible. The Chief Justice was accused of bringing the Judicial system in this country into shambles and, that there is a high incidence of murder perpetrators in this country which he has failed to bring to justice.’