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bank’s investigations on whether to grant the banking licence, he demanded an undertaking that ‘the report’ would not be published.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’.
Despite the scourge of wildlife poaching across Africa, the courts seldom see either poachers or smugglers in the dock. A recent trial followed by an appeal, however, has given members of the judiciary in Namibia a chance to express their concern about these crimes and to consider the prison term that should be imposed.
The story begins just like a movie: a police sergeant working the x-ray conveyor belt machine at Namibia’s Hosea Kutako International Airport suddenly spots something suspicious about two suitcases as they pass through the scan. She offloads them, and then calls their owners from the departure hall.
When a death row prisoner has his date with the executioner commuted and starts a lifelong relationship with the inside of a prison instead, he will usually continue to explore every avenue to escape a prolonged life behind bars. Those explorations seldom amount to anything, but in the case of two prisoners waiting out their life-term in a jail in Kenya, luck – and a failure of Parliament to sort out a conflict of laws – was on their side.
Peter Muindi and Jimmy Musila were originally charged and convicted of attempted robbery with violence. On conviction they were sentenced to death. Though the death penalty was commuted to life, they lost both their appeal attempts (to the High Court and the Court of Appeal) on the question of conviction and appropriate sentence. That seemed to be the end of the road: they would have to reconcile themselves to spending the rest of their lives in jail.
Malawi’s high court judge Zione Jane Veronica Ntaba is no stranger to controversy. Among her decisions she found her country’s Chief Justice, Andrew Nyirenda and the whole of the Malawi Judicial Service Commission had acted irregularly, illegally and unconstitutionally. Now she has made another noteworthy decision, turning down a request to have the second half of a potentially sensational trial broadcast by the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation. Here’s the background – and her reasons.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
S v Nyamayevhu
High Court, Masvingo, Zimbabwe
Judge Garainesu Mawadze
In this case of wife-murder, the accused had been in custody for six months as he was refused bail, the judge said. He added:
While in custody, the now-deceased’s relatives caused the accused’s relatives to surrender some of the accused’s assets as compensation. These included nine cattle, twelve goats, four bales of cotton, two tonnes of maize and R5 000. While this can never be compared to the loss of life we cannot close our eyes to the fact that accused has somehow atoned for his criminal conduct.