By Okello Jabweli
An international panel led by a Ugandan judge has recommended the dissolution of the entire Swazi government as a measure to restore the rule of law in the country.
In a report just released a three-man International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), report urges King Mswati III to invoke his prerogative to dissolve and reconstitute the nationâ€™s government.
A crisis has been brewing in the tiny South African kingdom since November last year when Prime Minister Dr. Sibusu Dlamini issued a statement declaring that the government would not recognise two Court of Appeal judgements on the grounds that they would strip the crown of his powers.
The Hon. Justice Dr. George Kanyeihamba of the Uganda Supreme Court led the ICJ panel. Prof. Michelo Hansungule (Zambia) and Prof. Edward Ratushney (Canada) were the other members of the team.
The government declaration followed several judgements or cases it deemed disrespectful of the crown. One such case involved a schoolgirl whom King Mswati III allegedly ordered abducted and produced in his palace as 10th wife. Upon learning that her daughter had been confined at the Kingâ€™s palace, her mother lodged an appeal with the High Court seeking her daughterâ€™s release.
In October, as the Justices were preparing to hear the case, a big force comprising the Attorney General and the nationâ€™s security chiefs stormed the High Court and warned judges off handling the girlâ€™s case. The Chief Justice remained adamant and vowed that Court would proceed to hear the case.
â€œGovernment does not intend to recognise the two judgements of the Court of Appeal. The laws of this country will remain as they are, in other words, as if the judgements of the Court of Appeal judges, in these respects,â€ Dlaminiâ€™s statement rejecting the judgements read in part.
The Prime Minister said the judgements would strip the king of some of his powers, which were granted to him by the Swazi State: â€œThe governmentâ€™s belief is that the judges have been influenced by forces outside our system and that they have not acted independently.â€
Following the declaration all, six Appeal Court judges resigned. In resigning, the judges categorically stated that they would not reconsider their position unless the Prime Ministerâ€™s statement was unconditionally withdrawn with an apology. In solidarity of the judges of the Appeals Court, other judges and magistrates also threatened to quit. It was at this point that the ICJ intervened by sending a fact-finding mission.
In the face of domestic and international appeals, the government continued its open attack on judicial independence, separation of powers and the rule of law. In the unfolding drama, the Chief Justice resigned, while other judicial officers were dismissed, demoted or threatened with deportation.
The Kanyeihamba panel found that a small cadre of palace advisers, including the Prime Minister, attorney General and important political and judicial actors had subverted effective government and rule of law in Swaziland.