Country Report Swaziland January 2008

The political scene: The Supreme Court will rule on constitutional case

The constitutional challenge by civic organisations-the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU), the People's United Democratic Movement (Pudemo), the Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC), the Swaziland Federation of Labour and the Swaziland National Association of Teachers-has continued before the courts. In its main application in August, the civic organisations had sought an order for the constitution to be declared null and void; in an alternative application they sought an order that Section 25 of the constitution relating to freedom of association be interpreted as allowing political organis-ations to contest elections. However, Justice Stanley Maphalala ruled on August 21st that Pudemo and the NNLC had no legal standing to bring a case before the courts (October 2007, The political scene), and on November 6th the full bench of the High Court upheld Mr Maphalala's decision, and also concluded that it had no power to rule on constitutional matters or to review the findings of the Constitutional Review Commission and Constitutional Drafting Committee. The civic organisations' appeal against the findings of the High Court was heard by the Supreme Court on November 8th. The full bench of the Supreme Court concluded that it could not decide on the question of legal standing without full knowledge of the basis for the High Court's ruling. The applications to the two courts and the issues are interconnected, and the Supreme Court found the position extremely confusing. By its next session the Supreme Court will have had an opportunity to study the judgment of the full bench of the High Court.

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