A raft of appointments of judges to Swaziland’s Supreme Court has raised questions about nepotism in the kingdom ruled by absolute monarch, King Mswati III.
Even one of the newspapers in Swaziland that he in effect owns has raised doubts about the wisdom of appointing judges who are related to one another.
And, the Swazi Attorney-General Majahenkhaba Dlamini has been appointed a temporary Supreme Court judge for the month of July 2015, raising questions about the independence from government of the judiciary.
On Friday (26 June 2015), seven acting judges to the Supreme Court were announced, which the Sunday Observer newspaper reported, ‘resulted in the kingdom’s judiciary turning into a close knit family affair of spouses and siblings’.
The newspaper reported, ‘Newly-appointed Judge of the Supreme Court Majahenkhaba Dlamini joins his wife High Court Judge Mumcy Dlamini as members of the judiciary.
‘Former High Court Judge Qinisile Mabuza and her brother Sipho Nkosi have both been appointed Judges of the Supreme Court – the latter’s appointment is on an acting basis while the former’s is permanent.
‘There is also High Court Judge Nkululeko Hlophe whose wife is Supreme Court Registrar and Judicial Service Commission (JSC) Secretary Lorraine Hlophe.
‘With Majahenkhaba and his wife Judge Mumcy, questions have been raised on what would happen should the former, in his capacity as acting Supreme Court Judge, find himself having to review cases that were decided by the latter at the High Court.
‘There are suggestions that there are strong possibilities of this scenario coming true.’
There are also concerns that some of the new judges might not be suitably qualified.
The Observer reported, ‘A senior judicial expert who spoke to the Sunday Observer, though stating clearly not being opposed to the appointments, was worried that Acting Judges Nkosi and Cloete were appointed straight to the Supreme Court without any experience of presiding in the lower courts, especially the High Court.
‘“There is a lot that they need to learn, which they can do by presiding at the High Court before they are elevated to the Supreme Court,” said the expert.’
The appointment of Attorney-General Majahenkhaba Dlamini to the Supreme Court for one month has raised doubts about King Mswati’s commitment to the separation of powers between the legislative, the executive and the judiciary.
Dlamini is a member of the Swazi Government that was hand-picked by King Mswati, an ex-official member of the House of Assembly and now a judge. That gives him a place in all three branches of government.
The full list of Supreme Court Judges:
• Acting Chief Justice Bheki Maphalala
• Dr. Ben Odoki JA
• Justice Stanley Maphalala JA
• Justice Jacobus Annandale JA
• Justice Qinisile Mabuza JA
• Justice Mbutfo Mamba JA
• AG Majahenkhaba Dlamini JA
• Lawyer Robert Cloete AJA
• Lawyer Sipho Nkosi AJA