The African Law Service

The African Law Service brings diverse commentary on legal developments from across our African continent. 

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Namibian lawyer tells national police chief: protect my client against abduction, rendition by Zim police  

As the crisis in human rights and the rule of law continues in Zimbabwe, its impact – and growing condemnation of the government crackdown – has spread elsewhere in the region and abroad. In Namibia, an opposition MP, visiting from Zimbabwe, fears for his life after receiving information that a squad of Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organisation police have arrived in Namibia to abduct him. He believes the aim of the secret mission is to return him to Zimbabwe and put him on trial for treason.

A prominent legal firm in Namibia has written to that country’s inspector general of police asking for action to protect a senior Zimbabwe opposition figure, Chalton Hwende, on holiday in Namibia. Human rights lawyer, Norman Tjombe, told Jifa that his client, still safe in Namibia at the moment, had received credible information that members of Zimbabwe’s intelligence agency, the much-feared Central Intelligence Organisation, had arrived in Namibia intent on abducting him and taking him back to Zimbabwe.

Bucking regional trend, Zim court gives go-ahead to sue for adultery

Flaring political passions in the region continue to make news headlines, but the courts have been hearing about other kinds of passion as well. While Zimbabwe is alight with raging political conflict, and while citizens die at the hands of the police and security forces, the judiciary has been dealing with the burning issues of sex, adultery and maintaining the country’s “moral standards”. In a recent decision, the high court in Harare has held that a damages claim for adultery may go ahead.

Read the judgment here

Zimbabwe is burning, its social fabric in tatters as fatal political violence rages through the cities and countryside. But for a woman known only as AD, there are other priorities: her husband’s adultery and what the courts are going to do about it.

After discovering the alleged affair, AD brought a damages claim against the woman she identified as her husband’s partner in illicit sex, and is suing her for USD150 000

Give senior lawyer his current tax compliance certificate, high court orders

A PROMINENT senior lawyer in Kenya, Professor Tom Odhiambo Ojienda, has persuaded the high court in Nairobi to order that the country’s tax bosses give him a current tax compliance certificate, despite their earlier refusal to do so. The revenue authorities say the lawyer owes them a lot of money and so they won’t issue the certificate. But Ojienda told the judge he needed the certificate so that he could contest a seat he wants to keep – on Kenya’s Judicial Service Commission, the body that helps select the country’s judges.

Read judgment here

Professor Tom Odhiambo Ojienda is a familiar name in Kenya’s law reports. At the moment he is involved in several long-running disputes over his tax affairs, without any indication that these matters will be resolved any time soon.

Death penalty overturned for woman who murdered, dismembered husband

The appropriateness of the death penalty as a punishment for even extremely violent murder has been raised at the Supreme Court in Kampala. Members of Uganda’s apex court were considering the case of a 63-year-old woman who murdered and dismembered her husband. Though she was originally condemned to death, the five Supreme Court justices have replaced that sentence with a 30-year jail term.

Read judgment here

The facts of the case before Uganda’s Supreme Court were just about as bad as they could be.

The accused murdered her 65-year-old husband and when family and others asked where he was she pretended that she did not know. She even told their daughter that he “had other women” and might be with one of them.

Villagers' water pollution case should be heard in UK not Zambia, court hears

A major case on the environmental and human rights of villagers in Zambia was heard in the English courts over two days this week. The appeal concerns the question of where villagers, suing over the pollution of their water via mining action, may bring their dispute. They want the case heard in the UK while Vedanta, the parent company they are targeting, says the “natural forum” for the matter would be Zambia.

FOR almost 2000 villagers in Zambia’s Chingola region, this was a crucial week. A two-day hearing in the English courts could see them finally able to act against the mining outfit they claim has, since 2005, polluted their water and damaged their health, their lands and any prospect of earning a living.

Why Zambia's highest court found President Edgar Lungu eligible to serve another term

Zambia’s highest court has given the country’s president, Edgar Lungu, the go-ahead to serve a third term in office if he wishes. This judicial permission for the president to take a step regarded as contentious by many in Zambia, came by way of a judgment that had as its core the definition of a presidential “term”. The court found that a president may serve only two terms.

Read judgment on ZambiaLII here


IN a recent case testing whether Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu may lawfully stand for a third term in 2021, that country’s highest court had something to say about the problem of threats to the judiciary “related to matters before court” - though the judges did not say whom they had in mind.

Women Chief Justices in Africa: why are they under threat?

VERY, very few women in Africa hold the position of Chief Justice or deputy Chief Justice. On the last count, just five women hold these posts in the southern and east African countries we most regularly write about.  And yet two of these five women are under threat of prosecution or impeachment, while a third who has been facing an impeachment tribunal emerged unscathed last week. Against this background, the story of the inquiry into the Chief Justice of Seychelles, Mathilda Twomey, makes sober reading for the general public.

WOMEN in African’s top judicial positions will have been watching the case of their colleague, the Chief Justice of Seychelles, Mathilda Twomey, with more than keen interest. It is a remarkable fact that, of the southern and east African countries whose decisions we have been writing about recently, women hold top office in just a tiny number of countries. And yet most of these already few women are under scrutiny, facing threat of impeachment or prosecution.

Kenya: Time for courts to develop judicial review as “constitutional supervision of power” - judge

IN an ongoing battle over land compensation payment in Kenya, the high court has awarded both a win and a lose to the two sides in the bitter dispute. This particular part of the fight has seen the senate determined to show its authority by summonsing the companies that owned the contested land to appear before one of its committees and answer questions. The companies, on the other hand, claim a witch-hunt and say there is an attempt to coerce and blackmail them.

WHEN a court begins its decision with a hymn to the values of the constitution and the rule of law, I would expect to find the judge is about to do something unusual or significant.

Did this happen in the recently-decided case of the Speaker of the senate against two limited liability companies? You be the judge.

Before he even began to explain the facts of the case, though, Judge Mativo, who presided in the matter, spent three paragraphs on the significance of the law, justice and the rule of law in a modern, changing society.  

Somali "forced marriage" case poses headache for UK courts

AS the world becomes more aware of the need to protect children and young people from forced marriage, courts are faced with increasingly difficult cases on the issue. A new UK decision involving a family of children from Somalia illustrates the problems that judges could face. The children’s older sibling, who still lives in the UK, believed their mother was intent on the forced marriage of at least one of the children and tried to get the UK courts to act. In a series of hearings, the courts repeatedly extended protection orders over the children.

INCREASING awareness of the rights of children not to be forced into marriage led to this unusual trans-continental case, heard in the UK courts but involving an African family.

It concerns four young Somalis, formerly of the UK but now living in Somalia with their mother. The siblings’ sister, still in the UK, asked for help when she heard that their mother intended to force at least one of the younger siblings into marriage in Somalia.

Traditional leaders in Malawi win against property developer who hid information from court

TRADITIONAL leaders in Malawi’s Chikwawa district have won a significant court victory over a developer. This after he asked for judicial help in throwing a local community off land where they have lived for many years – but failed to disclose key facts to the court. An initial injunction against the local community was granted earlier this year, but then it emerged that he hid important facts in his original application, brought without notice to the traditional community.