Thursday, 30 June 2011
30 June 2011
Judge charged with insulting Swazi king's 'forked tongue'
Swazi high court judge Thomas Masuku has been charged with insulting King Mswati III, Africa's last absolute monarch, over a ruling that referred to him as "forked-tongued", he said today (30 June 2011).
"All I can say is that my conscience is clear about all these charges, and I am going to deal with them appropriately at the appropriate forum," said Masuku said after being slapped with 12 misdemeanour charges drawn up by the royally appointed Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi yesterday.
Topping the charge sheet is an accusation of insulting Mswati by calling him "forked-tongued" in a ruling last year.
The judgment, later overturned at the Supreme Court, ruled that police officers had wrongfully seized cattle in the king's name.
"It would be hard to imagine that his majesty could conceivably speak with a forked tongue, saying one thing and authorising his officers to do the opposite," the ruling read.
Masuku is also accused of "actively associating with those who want to bring about unlawful change to the regime".
"It is not right. At a time the country should be making its name good in the international media, we now appear to be suspending judges," said Patrick Mamba, secretary of Swaziland's Law Society.
Masuku is one of the few judges willing to challenge to Mswati. In 2002, he challenged a royal decree removing chiefs from their land.
When the crown refused to recognise the court's decision, judges of the appeal and high courts walked out, causing a two-year legal crisis.
"It is an outrage. Reading these charges it is plain somebody is intent on painting Masuku as a bad guy in the eyes of the king," said Musa Hlope, chairperson of the Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations, an umbrella group of activists.
"He is the most senior judge in Swaziland and the most competent. His possible crime would be he is too independent minded as a judge." -- Sapa-AFP
30 June 2011
A struggle ignored
The Catholic Bishops of Southern Africa have raised their concern regarding news of a request by the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland for a financial bailout by the South African Treasury.
It is understood that an amount of R10 Billion is needed to keep the Swazi Government afloat and the administration from collapsing.
The SACBC bishops point out that Swaziland is currently in the throes of an unprecedented financial and societal crisis. It has the highest HIV & AIDS infection rate in the world (26%); the lowest life expectancy in the world (32 years); an unemployment rate of 40% and rising; and extreme poverty with 70% of its population living below the poverty line of less than US$6 a day; a State of Emergency that has curtailed freedom of expression, association and dissent for the last 37 years.
The bishops express their belief that the Swaziland Government must abandon or at least reform the “Tinkhundla” system of governance of royal favour and alliance which – they say - is a breeding place for corruption and greed. Monies intended for alleviating the people’s suffering are diverted to support the lavish lifestyle of the monarchy.
South Africa meanwhile has denied it has approved King Mswati III's request for a bailout loan. He had already reportedly turned to the IMF which said he must do more to slim down Africa’s most bloated bureaucracy if he wanted any aid to stay afloat.
Meanwhile news today reveals that the Swazi government has now run out of money to send its cancer patients to better equipped clinics and hospitals in neighboring South Africa.
Linda Bordoni spoke to exiled Swazi opposition activist, Mfanafuthi Tsena about the situation in his homeland. She asked him why, with such a dramatic human rights record, the plight of the Swazi people is hardly ever in the international news…
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30 June 2011
MSWATI SEEKS TO FIRE SWAZILAND’S MOST SOBER MINDED JUDGE
The latest news from King Mswati’s farm are that the most impartial judge in Swaziland, Justice Thomas Masuku, has been given until July 22 of this year to explain why he should not be fired.
The Times of Swaziland’s [managing editor] Mbongeni Mbingo personally wrote the report, which was released today (30 June 2011). Apparently, the judge has twelve acts of “misbehaviour” to answer to, ranging from allegedly associating himself with subversive elements in the kingdom to insulting the king.
The letter was served by the Chief Justice, Justice Michael Ramodibedi, a man regarded as a puppet of both the king and his prime minister by even the country’s parliamentarians.
Justice Masuku is being victimised by the king for not bowing to political pressure when adjudicating cases. Although some people may be stunned by this recent act, we as the SSN saw it coming in fact he is not the last judge that will be victimised, unless the rest are successfully intimidated by this ludicrous act.
Issued by the Swaziland Solidarity Network [SSN]
DETAILS OF JUDGE’S SUSPENSION
The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, reported today (30 June 2011) Masuku had been accused of ‘12 counts of serious acts of misbehaviour—including insulting the King’.
The Times censored itself and told its readers it would not disclose what the ‘insult’ was.
The Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, was equally as vague as the Times about the insult. It reported, ‘Recently, Judge Masuku came under fire from the Supreme Court for words he used in the same breath as that of the King when passing judgment.
‘The highest court frowned at the wording and felt the judge should have avoided usage of such words.’
The Observer lists the following as some of the charges against Masuku.
Allegedly disrespecting the Chief Justice (CJ) Michael Ramodibedi
He is also accused of allegedly joining a toy-toy by CTA workers at the High Court
He allegedly deserted work sometime last year without permission
He allegedly threatened to resign sometime last year
He is also accused of being party to a clique hellbent on seeing regime change
He is also accused of total defiance and total disregard of orders from the CJ
He is also accused of scheming to topple the CJ from his position.
‘It was clear to us that the working relationship between the Masuku’s office and that of the CJ was not smooth,’ a High Court told the Observer.
JUDGE CHARGED FOR INSULTING KING
30 June 2011
Judge charged for insulting the king
MBABANE—The Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi has slapped senior judge, Justice Thomas Masuku with 12 counts of serious acts of misbehaviour—including insulting the King.
The man who once told the nation that he is ‘Makhulu Baas’ is also investigating whether Justice Masuku should be removed from office.
According to our sources, the judge was served with a letter informing him of the charges yesterday afternoon and has up until July 22, 2011 to respond.
"The judge has been asked to explain by July 22 why he should not be removed from office, for any or all of the foregoing alleged serious acts of misbehaviour," said a High Court source.
Although the judge has been told to hand in a written explanation by July 22, his hearing has been slated for August 11, where he will be expected to make oral representation before the Judicial Services Commission (JSC).
The Chief Justice is the chairman of the JSC.
Justice Masuku is being accused of insulting the King by using a certain phrase when referring to His Majesty. This phrase will not be repeated, however.
Another serious charge is that he is accused of having ‘actively associated himself with those who want to bring about unlawful change to the regime’.
Justice Masuku, who is also charged with failing to deliver judgments on time, is one of two senior judges at the High Court. It is said there is a case the CJ referred to in the charge sheet that the judge has delayed delivering judgment on.
He is also alleged to have had an illicit affair with a certain judge of the High Court as well as having joined employees of the Central Transport Administration (CTA) in a toyi-toyi on June 17. This was during a show of protest against an Industrial Court judge by the employees who was being accused of failing to finalise their case due to his suspension.
The judge who Justice Masuku is accused of having had an illicit affair with is known to this newspaper, but will not be revealed for defamatory reasons.
However, the CJ wrote in the charge sheet that Justice Masuku brought the judiciary into disrepute, by this alleged affair.
Apparently Justice Masuku was also touting himself to be appointed as Chief Justice.
The Secretary of the JSC Lorraine Hlophe refused to comment last night when asked about this matter.
She was stunned by the news, and said it had not been brought to her attention and therefore she would have to verify the matter with her principals today.
"I will have to verify what you are telling me. I am not aware of any of it. I will therefore not be in a position to comment right now," she stated.
Even when called an hour later, she was still adamant that there was no truth in the reports, and that her position remained the same.
Justice Masuku’s phone rang unanswered last night when called for comment.
He was called repeatedly but to no avail. However, this newspaper can reveal that he did receive the letter informing him of the charges.
There were also unconfirmed reports that he has also been suspended from work.
"I do not know about that either," said Hlophe when asked about it.
High Court sources had alleged the judge has been suspended.
Meanwhile, our sources said they were stunned by the latest news from the High Court and said it showed all was not well.
Wednesday, 29 June 2011
In what is sure set to come as shocker to many, High Court Judge Thomas Masuku, who recently hogged the headlines for issuing a judgement highly critical of the mornachy, has been slapped with a suspension. Highly placed sources have today revealed that the judge was today officialy told that he will be suspended indefinitely.
An extraordinary gazzete is currently being drafted which will spell out in detail the nature and terms of Masuku's suspension.
This sudden of events follows a widely reported directive from the Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi that all cases involving the king shall no longer be heard at the High Court.
Masuku is not new to controversy as he was the same judge that 'caused' the rule of law crisis by ruling against the king during his case against two Kamkhweli and Macetjeni chiefs.
The judge was subsequently transfered to the Industrial court but he successfully challenged his transfer at the industrial court. He then went to a sabbatical and worked as a judge in Botswana before returning to the country two years ago.
30 June 2011
Bare-breasted opulence wears thin in Swaziland
THE royal ritual that allows him to select a new wife each year from the ranks of eager, bare-breasted virgins gathered before him thankfully remains intact and is set to take place again in a few weeks.
But otherwise the outlook is grim for one of the world's last absolute monarchs, 43-year-old King Mswati III of the small southern African landlocked nation of Swaziland, as political and economic pressures threaten to drive him from his throne.
In a sub-Saharan echo of the way autocratic rulers have been ousted in the Arab Spring, Mswati is facing calls to democratise or go, and though Forbes Magazine rates him one of the world's richest royals, with a personal fortune in excess of $100 million, it is the impoverished Swazi economy that is threatening to end the fairytale rule of the British-educated monarch.
In a stunning contrast to Mswati's attendance at the wedding of William and Catherine in London, when he and his entourage of 50 travelled in a private jet and feasted on gold-leafed truffles, Swaziland, a country of 1.5 m people, has had to plead with neighbouring South Africa for a bailout of several hundred million dollars to save itself from looming bankruptcy after being turned down by the IMF and the African Development Bank.
South Africa's President Jacob Zuma, under pressure from powerful trade unions and churches, as well as some members of his cabinet, is playing hardball.
His ANC government, fed up with Mswati's personal profligacy and civil unrest in its troublesome neighbour, has made it plain there will be no money unless there are immediate moves towards democratic change, including an end to emergency rule, human rights abuses and the unbanning of political parties. South Africa has the spendthrift ruler over a barrel.
The Swazi economy is in dire straits, with a budget deficit estimated by the IMF to be of Greek proportions at 14.3 per cent of GDP. Following a 60 per cent drop in customs revenues resulting from a slump in global trade, Swazi foreign exchange reserves have been declining for 17 months, shrinking to $523 m, enough to cover only two months of imports.
Unpaid government bills total $180 m, public servants are not being paid, the finance minister has estimated state coffers are losing $11 m a month in corruption alone and the central bank has stopped lending to the government.
The IMF has said the king must raise taxes, cut the bloated public service and implement austerity measures, but Mswati has done nothing to comply.
And, after months of civil unrest, there is little sympathy for an absolute monarch who lives in opulence while the people in his kingdom, which suffers the highest rate of HIV/Aids in the world, are largely impoverished, existing on 60c a day. The powerful Congress of South African Trade Unions speaks of the crisis as a "man-made disaster, the result of a few royal elites who have milked the country dry (after) years of extravagance, corruption, parasitism and poor management".
The Catholic Bishops of Southern Africa have demanded any bailout money must not be used to fund the monarchy's excesses and instead promote a new democratic order.
Austerity is not something that the comes easily to the king. He is well short of the achievements of former king King Sobhuza, who boasted 70 wives, 210 children and 1000 grandchildren. So far, Mswati has just 14 wives and 23 children.
But each wife has a palatial home and a retinue of servants.
An indication of the gravity of the crisis is seen in his abrupt cancellation of celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of his reign.
But the annual dance at which thousands of bare-breasted virgins line up for his delectation is going ahead as usual.