Swaziland courts in govt standoff

Swaziland's legal system is in disarray after the resignation of all six court of appeal judges and the refusal by the high court to hear any cases in which the government is a party

This has left the small African kingdom without its highest court, and has seen a vast amount of ongoing litigation grind to a halt.

The judiciary's standoff comes after a refusal by the government to adhere to three decisions handed down by the courts at the end of last year.

The International Bar Association (IBA) has this month sent a team to Swaziland to investigate the situation and IBA programme lawyer Phillip Tahmindjis is currently completing a report that is due out at the beginning of February.

The dispute centres on three decisions by the court that the government refused to enforce because they related to King Mswati III.

Tahmindjis said: “They [the court of appeal judges] made it clear that they found it totally unacceptable that the government would not be following the decisions of the court.” He added that the government's actions were largely incorrect according to Swaziland law.

The country now faces possible trade sanctions by the US, if the government and King Mswati refuse to restore the rule of law.

The king is currently in consultation on the matter with both the Swazi national council and the cabinet.