Swaziland newspaper editor Bheki Makhubu and the country’s top human rights attorney, Thulani Maseko, have been arrested and jailed for contempt of court by Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi for criticising one of his rulings in articles printed in Makhubu’s political commentary magazine, The Nation.
At a hearing in his chambers which was closed to the media and public, Ramodibedi remanded both men for seven days on Tuesday.
“It was a kangaroo court,” said attorney Michael Mkwanazi, who represented Maseko and claimed he was denied access to his client while they were in police custody.
Both Makhubu and Maseko wrote articles critical of a decision by Ramodibedi to jail government vehicle inspector Bhantshana Gwebu for doing his job.
Gwebu impounded the vehicle of Judge Esther Ota on January 21 because she was using it illegally to do shopping.
Ramodibedi denied Gwebu legal representation on the grounds that no attorney was present at the scene and could not corroborate his account.
Makhubu and Maseko wrote that Gwebu had previously confiscated Ramodibedi’s government car when it had been misused while he had been out of the country, and suggested the treatment meted out to Gwebu was because of that. Gwebu spent nine days in custody.
Makhubu was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison by Ramodibedi in April for “scandalising the court” with articles in 2009 and 2010 critical of Ramodibedi. He is appealing against the verdict.
Maseko reportedly refused to apply for bail on principle.
No decision on bail for Makhubu was known at the time of publication.
Indepndent Foreign Service