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Judge charged with insulting Swazi king’s ‘forked tongue’

Swazi high court judge Thomas Masuku has been charged with insulting King Mswati III, Africa’s last absolute monarch, over a ruling that referred to him as “forked-tongued”, he said Thursday.

“All I can say is that my conscience is clear about all these charges, and I am going to deal with them appropriately at the appropriate forum,” said Masukusaid after being slapped with 12 misdemeanour charges drawn up by the royally appointed Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi on Wednesday.

Topping the charge sheet is an accusation of insulting Mswati by calling him “forked-tongued” in a ruling last year.

The judgment, later overturned at the Supreme Court, ruled that police officers had wrongfully seized cattle in the king’s name.

“It would be hard to imagine that his majesty could conceivably speak with a forked tongue, saying one thing and authorising his officers to do the opposite,” the ruling read.

Masuku is also accused of “actively associating with those who want to bring about unlawful change to the regime”.

“It is not right. At a time the country should be making its name good in the international media, we now appear to be suspending judges,” said Patrick Mamba, secretary of Swaziland’s Law Society.

Masuku is one of the few judges willing to challenge to Mswati. In 2002, he challenged a royal decree removing chiefs from their land.

When the crown refused to recognise the court’s decision, judges of the appeal and high courts walked out, causing a two-year legal crisis.

“It is an outrage. Reading these charges it is plain somebody is intent on painting Masuku as a bad guy in the eyes of the king,” said Musa Hlope, chairperson of the Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations, an umbrella group of activists.

“He is the most senior judge in Swaziland and the most competent. His possible crime would be he is too independent minded as a judge.” — Sapa-AFP

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