Swaziland NGO welcomes release of HRDs with new hope for independence of the Judiciary

July 2, 2015

As many international NGOs (e.g.: Human Rights First, Front Line, the Human Rights Foundation, ISHR and several trade unions) have already welcomed the release of two human rights defenders in Swaziland, it is perhaps interesting to give the local take on it through an article in the Swaziland Observer of 2 July 2015 at hand of Noxolo Nkabinde: “Bheki, Thulani sacrifice not in vain SCCCO”.

The Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO) says the sacrifices made by Nation Magazine Editor Bheki Makhubu and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko were not in vain..“When they wrote those articles, Bheki and Thulani could not have imagined the events that were to follow. They, as concerned members of the public and as human rights defenders, were simply articulating the sentiments of a nation, frustrated and rapidly losing faith in the justice system. As we continue to stand with them, we believe the pain they and their families have gone through is another building-block towards freedom – their sacrifice has not been in vain,” SCCCO said in their statement. They added that their charge, arrest, conviction and imprisonment were never justified and believed they were vindicated.

Interestingly the NGO gives big credits to the judiciary “We commend the judges of the Supreme Court for this ruling. We welcome this, amongst their first acts in office, as a sign that perhaps our judiciary is turning a corner towards the better path of justice. The past few years have increasingly eroded our confidence in the judiciary – the impeachment proceedings of the former chief justice exposed but a fragment of the rot that had set in the judiciary.  But as we all know, that situation has been created and nurtured over time, and it’s predilection  for injustice has its roots in an environment that is hostile to free speech, in particular the speech that dissents with the status  quo. And so our rejoicing is bitter-sweet:  this is not about the individuals who previously occupied and abused judicial office; nor is it about their heinous conduct during this and other cases – the problem of the judiciary, just as with the other structures of governance, is systemic, and our new judges and their successors will remain vulnerable to outside influence as long as the structural flaws are not addressed.

This was also an opportunity to restore both the dignity of and confidence in the judiciary.  It could also serve as an opportunity to develop and grow the country’s jurisprudence in a way that promotes a culture of human rights and good democratic governance.

The SCCCO anticipates an era of respect for the rule of law under the new Supreme Court Judges Qinisile Mabuza and Mbutfo Mamba: “We note in the appointments the presence of judges such as Qinisile Mabuza and Mbutfo Mamba who have a proven track record of fairness and we look forward to an era where such judges are not punished for being principled…We call on all the judicial officers, even as they have taken the judicial oath/affirmation of office, to also recall the following constitutional provisions: Whereas all the branches of government are the Guardians of the Constitution, it is necessary that the Courts be the ultimate Interpreters of the Constitution”.
The article adds with a sad note that in the meantime the Swaziland Office of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) has been closed due to lack of funding.

See background in: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/swaziland-should-immediately-release-two-human-rights-defenders-arrested-on-17-march/

Observer.

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