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Released on: October 26, 2023

ALERT: Eswatini court stops bid to silence teachers

The Industrial Court of Eswatini has thrown out an attempt by government to silence the Swaziland National Association of Teachers’ (SNAT) criticism of the judicial system.

The court dismissed a government application to force SNAT, the largest teachers’ union in the kingdom, to remove a video from its Facebook Page which was critical of the judicial system.

The application was dismissed by Judge Manene Thwala on Wednesday, 26 October 2023.

The judge said the court was convinced that the Attorney General had powers to prosecute cases of contempt, but in the present matter, he was not the one who deposed to the affidavit, and therefore he was not legally entitled to delegate those powers, especially to a civil servant.

In government court papers, the Executive Secretary of the Teaching Service Commission had deposed to the affidavit.

The government had applied for an orderdirecting SNAT to pay E500 000 in the event it failed to remove the video from its Facebook page, failing which government had urged the court to send all executive members of the teachers’ association to jail for 30 days.

In the video, SNAT members were expressing discontent with the rule of law and judgements of the Industrial Court, where SNAT President Mbongwa Dlamini is fighting an unfair dismissal case.

After the video was posted on the SNAT Facebook page, government asked the judge to ban Dhlamini from entering the court unless he apologised for his comments on the judiciary.

Government also alleged that in the video, threats were being made against the judiciary, but Dlamini in his replying papers denied any wrongdoing.

In court, the SNAT argued that their union had a right to freedom of expression interms of Section 24 the Constitution. They said this was a protected right.

The Campaign for Free Expression welcomed the decision as a victory for free expression.

Contact:

info@freeexpression.org.za

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