The High Court of Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) has upheld and defended the secrecy surrounding that country’s central bank. The court had been asked by the governor of the central bank for an interdict preventing a local newspaper from reporting on a leaked confidential document relating to Farmer Bank, Eswatini’s newest financial institution. When the Times asked the governor a number of questions relating to the central bank’s investigations on whether to grant the banking licence, he demanded an undertaking that ‘the report’ would not be published. And when the undertaking was not given, the bank went to court. The judge accepted that strict confidentiality had to be preserved ‘at all costs’ and that any leak could upset the country’s financial stability and impact on central banks ‘worldwide’.
The Swazi courts have been battling to resolve the question of where the judges of the industrial court and the industrial court of appeal fit into the court hierarchy. In a long, complex and technical decision, that country’s highest court has laid down the law: the two industrial courts are inferior in the legal hierarchy to the high court and the supreme court, not equal to them. In a unanimous decision, five judges of the supreme court have sorted out the problem, but not without an immense struggle, for while they stress that the intention of the law makers has to be respected, that “intention” was clearly exceedingly difficult to fathom. “Mind-boggling”, in fact, to use the supreme court’s own words.