January 2, 2004

Premier: "Judicial crisis must be addressed"

Prime Minister Themba Dlamini admitted that national progress was hobbled by an ongoing "rule of law" crisis that has earned King Mswati's government international criticism. "Anyone can see that we just cannot live like this. Whether you want to admit it or not, the judicial crisis is right in front of us, we cannot avoid it, we simply have to address it," the premier said in a statement. He called for a review of the evictions of 200 residents from rural Macetjeni and KaMkhweli.

Swaziland's foremost human rights dilemma has festered since late 2000, when the army ousted from their ancestral homes families who refused to accept King Mswati's older brother, Prince Maguga, as their chief. The High Court ordered their return, and sentenced the Commissioner of Police to be jailed for contempt of court when he interfered. The Court of Appeal upheld the rulings, which were then blocked by the palace appointed attorney general. The six-member appeal court resigned in protest. Swaziland has been without its highest court since November 2002.

Officials with the pro-democracy movement and banned political opposition parties said that on the one hand they appreciated the premier's sentiments, but on the other they felt he was powerless to execute systemic change in sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarchy. "The premier must answer to the royalty who appointed him. He is not answerable to an electorate. He has no power to make the palace honour court rulings it dislikes," Ntombi Nkhosi, president of the women's league of the Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC), a banned political party, said. (IRIN)

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