Swazi Supreme Court orders eviction of 150 people
No compensation for families after unconstitutional ruling
Swazis have long known that there is one law for King Mswati and his cronies and another for everyone else – and this has just been brutally confirmed by a Supreme Court ruling that will see 150 people evicted from their land and homes without any form of compensation to make way for 'development'.
In a shocking decision handed down on May 31st, the Supreme Court gave the families just 21 days to vacate their land in the Malkerns – land that many have lived on since the 1950s – or face eviction.
Not only did the decision overrule an earlier ruling by the High Court, which agreed that the residents had a valid legal title to the land since they had occupied it uninterrupted for at least 33 years, but it also rode roughshod over the constitution – by failing to offer the affected community any alternative accommodation or compensation.
“This action by Swaziland’s highest court is a blatant violation of citizens’ rights under the 2005 Constitution, which guarantees that no land can be expropriated without ‘fair and adequate’ compensation,” said a statement from Freedom House, which called on the authorities not to pursue the unlawful eviction of the families.
The Supreme Court ruling is yet another example of the judicial crisis facing Swaziland – a country where the separation of powers has no meaning and where the rule of law has been shredded by the judicial system’s blind allegiance to the King, the government and powerful economic interests.
It also shows the brutal realities of life in Mswati’s Swaziland – not for the King who is immune from any legal processes but for all the poor and the vulnerable. The law should protect them. Instead, it is used by powerful interests to legitimise oppression and, as in this case, blatant human rights violations.
“The Supreme Court in its judgment chose to ignore much of the evidence and showed no concern whatsoever for the consequences of the eviction order on the impoverished community, which will now be deprived of their homes and land ,” said Freedom House.
The obvious questions are where will the families go? What will they do? How will they survive?
And the obvious answer from the judiciary and the powers-that-be is – who cares?