A most extraordinary story emerged this week of an attempt by the Chief Justice of Botswana, Terrence Rannowane, to transfer a senior judge from the high court in Gaborone to Francistown, and of the judge’s response. The CJ is alleged to have justified the sudden transfer on the basis that a judge in Francistown, recently appointed to head the country’s independent electoral commission, needed to be based in Gaborone. The judge sought to be moved, Gabriel Komboni, now plans a judicial review of the CJ’s transfer decision. In the meantime, he has been granted an urgent interim interdict stopping the CJ’s attempted transfer of the case from one high court seat to another. The order further declared that the CJ’s appointment of three named judges to hear part of this dispute, ‘undermines judicial independence’ and is inconsistent with the constitution.
Uganda’s Court of Appeal has handed down a decision that could prove a turning point on the question of how marital property should be divided on divorce. The judges seem to have rejected what some have seen as a growing tendency in divorce matters, namely granting women half share of a property. Instead, these judges say equality doesn’t automatically mean equity, and that a claim for half of the property must be backed by facts if it is to succeed. In this case, they said, the facts did not warrant an equal split and the wife should get just 20% of the property.
A new decision by Lesotho’s high court could prove key in a developing crisis over a disputed contract, that could bring the mountain kingdom to its knees. A full bench has found that the contract, between Lesotho and Frazer Solar, a German company that provides alternative energy systems and that would have involved Lesotho in finding funding of €100m, was null and void. Lesotho has repudiated the contract, and as a result, Frazer Solar is claiming compensation that could cripple Lesotho. Now, the Lesotho court has found the contract flouted the constitution as well as public procurement provisions and key legislation. It also fingered the minister who had signed the contract, apparently on a frolic of his own, without cabinet authorisation. The decision could help Lesotho fight off claims for compensation by Frazer Solar. These are sizeable claims amounting to a significant part of Lesotho’s annual budget.
Police in Malawi, like those in other post-colonial African countries, have long enjoyed wide powers to round up, hold and threaten anyone with prosecution under the guise of crime prevention. Typically, these powers are exercised by way of mass arrests, locally known as ‘sweeping exercises’, targeting people the police regard as vagrants or who seem out of place. Though first enacted under colonial rule, these powers have remained on the statute books even after independence. Human rights activists consider these powers unconstitutional because of their blatant disregard for the rights of those rounded up, but now these ‘sweeping exercises’ have been officially condemned by Malawi’s high court.
The head of Kenya’s independent electoral and boundaries commission has been found in contempt of court and will be staring some serious punishment in the face when he appears in court for sentencing. An office technology company brought an application against commission CEO, Marjan Hussein Marjan, asking that he be fined and/or jailed for six months for having ‘deliberately disobeyed’ earlier court orders and a 2016 judgment to pay the company. The judge who heard the company’s application had some tough words for Marjan about heeding court orders.