Swaziland Abandons Rule of Law

Swazi lawyers protesting outside the High Court against Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi (file photo).

King Mswati III has made his views about the rule of law crystal clear - there is no place for such a concept in his absolute monarchy.

The unjustified and indefensible sacking of High Court Judge Thomas Masuku demonstrates Mswati's utter contempt for the rule of law. There is only one law in Swaziland - and that is the law of the King.

Judge Masuku is a well-respected judge in southern Africa - renowned for his independence and his firm belief in the separation of powers and the rule of law. For these reasons, he was slapped with a list of baseless charges three months ago by the newly-installed and Mswati-appointed Chief Justice, Michael Ramodibedi - and suspended from the bench.

In August, Masuku was hauled before a similarly farcical disciplinary tribunal in front of the Judicial Service Commission, which was chaired by none other than his accuser, Ramodibedi. The hearing was not conducted in compliance with fundamental principles of justice and fairness. The Chief Justice did not recuse himself even though he was acting as both accuser and judge. And there was no cross-examination of the 'evidence' against him.

Now it seems that the process has reached its intended conclusion with the sacking of Masuku, who has served as a High Court Judge since 1999.

It is another sign that King Mswati and his elite clique have no intention of moving Swaziland towards a democratic, fairer and more open society - despite the worsening economic crisis and growing pro-democracy protests. Indeed, this decision shows that they will use any means possible to silence critical voices.

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