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01 Jul 2011 10:18
The suspension of a highly respected Swazi judge, known for his “courageously independent voice”, for allegedly insulting King Mswati III is seen as a direct attack on the independence of Swaziland’s judiciary.
Justice Thomas Masuku faces 12 counts of alleged misconduct that include “insulting his majesty the King” by using the words “forked tongue” when referring to him, “actively associating with those who want to bring about unlawful change to the regime” and taking part in a toyi-toyi outside the court earlier this month.
Swaziland’s Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi also accuses Masuku of a love affair with another judge (which resulted in her having to flee the country), being absent from work without authorisation and failing to deliver a judgment on time.
Masuku has until July 22 to submit a written response to the allegations and will face a disciplinary hearing on August 11, at which it will be decided whether he may continue to work as a judge in Swaziland.
Veteran democracy campaigner Musa Hlophe, who heads the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civil Organisations, described Masuku as a man of “impeccable integrity” and said that he did not believe the allegations.
“Justice Masuku is one of the rocks on which we pin our hopes for a better Swaziland,” Hlophe said.
“It appears that someone is deliberately plotting against Justice Masuku and trying to stain his character and tarnish his image.”
He said the suspension was a deliberate attempt to counter the independence of the judiciary.
Masuku, a distant cousin of Mario Masuku, the leader of Swaziland’s banned opposition party, the People’s United Democratic Movement, has been highly critical of the authorities’ failure to respect the rule of law and, in one case, said the judiciary was being “defied at will and with impunity”.
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