The alleged attempted military coup in neighbouring Lesotho is a stark reminder of just how precariously placed democracy and the rule of law are in much of the region. Notable, is the willingness of South Africa to play a role in stabilising the situation and protecting the democratically elected government of Prime Minister, Tom Thabane.
Another neighbouring kingdom, Swaziland, is experiencing its own tumult. In that Swaziland has never enjoyed democracy, it cannot be lost. But, as the analysis below describes, serious attacks are being made on those actors in Swaziland working for the attainment of democracy. In Lesotho, South Africa has sent in security forces. To support democracy in Swaziland, it wouldn’t need to contemplate anything like such drastic measures. Its leverage within the Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU), for instance, could help propel momentum toward democracy in Swaziland and help end attacks on political opponents.
OFF THE DOCKET
Tapela and Others v The Attorney-General and Others
On 22 August 2014, the High Court of Botswana issued judgment in Tapela and Others v The Attorney-General and Others.
The case challenged the Botswana government’s policy of refusing anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment to non-citizen, HIV-positive prisoners. The Court ruled that the policy violated the prisoners' constitutional rights and was unlawful. The Court ordered the government to provide all foreign prisoners, who meet the treatment criteria, with ARV treatment. The government has six weeks to consider an appeal.
Read the judgment here.
R v P and Another
On 3 July 2014, the Magistrates Court of Zambia acquitted two Zambian men who were arrested for unlawful carnal knowledge against the order of nature as prescribed in section 155 of the Zambian Penal Code. The two men were acquitted after spending more than a year in custody.
Read a summary of the case here.
ON THE DOCKET
Dlamini and Others v The Minister of Swaziland and Others
SALC is working with Swazi lawyers to challenge the constitutionality of the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act. The Act defines sedition and subversion broadly, and this wide definition has enabled Swazi authorities to use the legislation to suppress legitimate dissent and free expression. The case has been brought by three activists, who were arrested and charged with sedition last year after being present at a demonstration, which called for the boycott of the 2013 national elections. The case was filed in June 2014, and we are awaiting a trial date.
RN v Commissioner of Police
SALC is working with the S
exual Rights Centre to support a transgender person in a civil action in the Zimbabwe High Court. The plaintiff was arrested in January 2014 after she used a ladies’ toilet. She was subjected to humiliating treatment at the police station, detained for 48 hours, and subsequently charged with criminal nuisance. The plaintiff is suing the police for unlawful arrest and detention. Summons was filed in August 2014.
Masupha and Others v The Kingdom of Lesotho
SALC, Senate Masupha and the Federation of Women Lawyers have filed a complaint with the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights arguing that section 10 of Lesotho’s Chieftainship Act does not comply with the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. The Act denies all daughters the right to succeed to chieftainship. This complaint follows from a decision from the High Court and Court of Appeal in Lesotho upholding the law. SALC had intervened as an amicus curiae
when the case was before the Lesotho High Court and Court of Appeal.
National Commissioner of the South African Police Service v Southern Africa Litigation Centre and Another
On 19 May 2014, the Constitutional Court of South Africa heard oral arguments in National Commissioner of the South African Police Service v Southern Africa Litigation Centre
and reserved judgment. The case is an appeal from the Supreme Court of Appeal's decision in favour of SALC, holding that the South African Police Service must investigate allegations of torture committed in 2007 in Zimbabwe by Zimbabwean officials. SALC, with the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, initiated litigation after the National Prosecuting Authority refused to investigate evidence submitted by SALC of systemic torture in Zimbabwe.
TRAINING, ADVOCACY AND OTHER PROJECTS
SALC Hosts International Criminal Justice Regional Advocacy Conference
On 10 and 11 June 2014, SALC hosted a closed, two-day, regional advocacy conference, focused on civil society initiatives to secure accountability for international crimes at a domestic level. The purpose of the conference was to develop alternative strategies to combat international crimes domestically, including encouraging the domestication of International Criminal Court legislation. The conference brought together civil society organisations from throughout the region.
SALC Advocates for Freedom of Association, Assembly and Expression
On 1 August 2014, SALC together with 14 other local and international organisations sent an open letter to the U.S and Heads of African States and Governments calling on them to recognise the importance of human rights in Africa’s development agenda. The letter was sent in the run-up to the US–Africa Leaders’ Summit and highlighted a number of human rights concerns on the continent, including the suppression of freedom of association, assembly and expression. It further called for an end to discriminatory laws and practices against women on the continent.
SALC Convenes Panel at the 2014 Public Interest Law Gathering
On 24 and 25 July 2014, SALC participated in the annual Public Interest Law Gathering (PILG) that took place at the University of the Witwatersrand School of Law in Johannesburg. SALC convened a panel on the use of strategic litigation in sexual and reproductive rights in the region bringing together speakers from South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe.The gathering was supported by a range of human rights organisations, including SALC, the Socio-Economics Rights Initiative (SERI), University of the Witwatersrand School of Law, Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), Section 27, Probono.Org and the Legal Resources Centre (LRC).
SALC Hosts Workshops on Strategic Litigation and Sexual and Reproductive Rights
SALC convened two workshops on litigating sexual and reproductive rights in Lilongwe, Malawi (28 and 29 May 2014) and Gaborone, Botswana (19 and 20 June 2014). The workshops brought together local civil society organisations to discuss the use of strategic litigation as an advocacy tool and to identify opportunities in each country for litigation on sexual and reproductive rights.
Freedom of Expression in Swaziland: The Need for a Balanced Debate
Freedom of expression continues to be under attack in Swaziland, and lawyers, journalists and activists are facing growing repression and intimidation. A number of cases in 2014 have highlighted the extent of the problem, and the variety of ways in which expression is being suppressed. The continued attacks, and the targeting of high-profile individuals, have narrowed the already severely constrained space available to activists in Swaziland to protest their government’s unlawful and irregular conduct. The most recent example of this occurred when Vincent Ncongwane, the secretary general of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), was prevented from speaking at a prayer meeting held at Matsapha Industrial Centre. Matsapha is home to many textile factories – a sector expected to be hit hard by the withdrawal of financial assistance under the American African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) – and Ncongwane sought to discuss the implications of the withdrawal and to explain civil society’s position on the matter. However, as he was about to address the meeting, members of the Swazi Royal Police apprehended him, prevented him from speaking and ordered that he leave the venue.