/ 23 April 2014

Swazi judge ejects editor’s wife from court for ‘sleeping’

The detained editor of a Swaziland political magazine
The detained editor of a Swaziland political magazine

Judge Mpendulo Simelane, who has refused to recuse himself from the case and is also responsible for signing the warrants for Swazi editor Bheki Makhubu and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko's re-arrest, angered the editor when he ordered his wife out of the courtroom.

The two have been charged with contempt of court relating to articles published in the Nation magazine condemning the arrest of government chief vehicle inspector Bhantshana Gwebu while the case was still pending. 

The inspector stopped a government vehicle driver ferrying high court Judge Esther Ota, allegedly without official documents. In its February issue, the magazine criticised the arrest as an abuse of authority, which the authorities claimed interfered with the court proceedings, hence the contempt charges.

Meanwhile, various witnesses in court this afternoon said Makhubu's wife Fikile had not been sleeping, contrary to the judge's assertion.

A visibly angry Makhubu unceremoniously stood up in the accused dock and directly asked the bespectacled judge: "What more do you want from me? I cannot be blamed for your poor eyesight."

In response Simelane said: "I don't care whose wife she is; get out of my court, this is not a bedroom," and proceeded to order her out despite protestations from the full gallery of people who vouched that Makhubu's wife had not been sleeping but following the proceedings attentively.

Shortly after this drama, the court adjourned for lunch. Makhubu was heard saying: "I've spent a month in jail because of Mpendulo and now he's messing with my wife. I've had enough."

Family members and friends also voiced their discontent in the manner the judge continues to handle the case. The trial has been postponed to Monday since Thursday (Mswati's birthday celebrations) and Friday (Flag Day) are public holidays in Swaziland.