The finding came on Friday (15 May 2015) after a five-day mission to the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
The kingdom’s Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi has been suspended, pending an investigation into alleged malpractice, including abuse of power. The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Sibusiso Shongwe was sacked after he was charged with defeating the ends of justice and contravening the 2006 Prevention of Corruption Act. He is presently in jail on remand.
In a statement, the ICJ said, ‘There are serious structural deficiencies in Swaziland’s justice system that need to be addressed systematically and in a structured way to ensure the country meet core rule of law principles.’
Mission leader retired Judge Chinhengo of Zimbabwe said. ‘Current developments are merely the symptoms of a systemic crisis.’
He added, ‘There is a need for officials from all branches of government to adhere to the rule of law. The effect of denied justice and in Swaziland has made many victims. Its effect on the community has been devastating, as it has served to undermine respect for human rights and trust in the judiciary to act as a check on the other branches of the State.’
The Mission said it was also deeply concerned by the ‘emblematic cases of the unfair dismissal of Judge Thomas Masuku in 2011 as well as the unfair trial and subsequent arbitrary detention of journalist Bheki Makhubu and lawyer Thulani Maseko in 2014.’
The mission was conducted in collaboration with the Africa Judges and Jurists Forum, Judges for Judges (the Netherlands) and the Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association, with the aim to assess the state of independence of the judiciary and administration of justice in the country.
SWAZI JUDICIAL CRISIS: KING’S WORD IS LAW