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It is generally inappropriate to discuss a criminal case while it is ‘sub-judice’.

That’s me trying to impress with a bit of judicially-relevant Latin. You remember Latin, the dead language? We hope that our judicial system will never suffer a similar fate. An opportune moment to plead for the two incarcerated MPs to get a fair trial. Nothing more but, equally, nothing less; please. Abuse is a broad-ranging term. It can be pursuing an unfair or corrupt practice or using offensive language. But in this article today we talk about the especially damaging versions – violent or threatening treatment of a woman or child in jealous anger or in the process of sexual assault. No society will ever be entirely free of those crippling and potentially deadly forms of abuse. But there must be a society-wide commitment to a ruthless elimination of the practice.


What a society must provide, and respect for its people is the appropriate legislation that articulates clearly what abuse is, and how it will be punished, supported by criminal investigation and judicial systems that ensure perpetrators are brought to justice. Despite the continuing, incessant public reports of violent abuse of women and children we, in Eswatini, should feel encouraged by the judicial process now opened against an individual, not only alleged to have committed quite appalling incidents of sexual and other abuse, ruining the lives of young girls in the process, but continually flaunting an alleged immunity from prosecution; and convincing so many in the process. Look, you get monsters in every society. Eswatini should never expect an exemption certificate. But is there perhaps a prevailing perception among the less-educated that the rich and more sophisticated are untouchable for such acts? The integrity of Eswatini society, its people and judicial system, will be under the spotlight during and after this trial, with the crucial need for any defects in the criminal investigation and protection systems to be rectified immediately.


The word ‘protection’ will be of particular significance in this case. It appears likely that, until it came to court, many people were too frightened to report the abuse inflicted on others; even themselves. Let’s face it; if you don’t have confidence in the effectiveness of a witness protection programme and the judicial process itself, you aren’t going to endanger yourself and your family. And anonymity in witness protection is far less easy for someone living in a tiny country like Eswatini than, for instance, in the Republic of South Africa. But it must be in place and working.

And are we going to see the actual prosecution leap into action any time soon? The media should be asking government – whether the Judiciary or Executive – ‘how many serious criminal cases are awaiting a completed prosecution, and have they sorted out the perceived conflict between the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) procedures and the Constitution’? And will the Pope be taking his trip to Mars before an answer is provided? The ACC appears to be a toothless dog. What incentive is there for the tempted to stay honest? Specific legislation has had to be promulgated in recent years to deter and punish violence against women and girls’ offenders. We wouldn’t need all that recent legislation if we weren’t reacting to gender-based violence having a deep-seated place in this society; men getting away with beating women and children, whether or not for sexual purposes. Is that fair comment or not?


But the best technique for eliminating bad behaviour is prevention in the first place. Real men don’t beat women; especially girls. I did a lot of boxing in my youth; no big deal, only a light-welterweight but got my university colours despite losing almost as many contests as I won. With some retrospective shame I admit to having loved a barbaric sport. But – and I’ll say it with hand on Bible – I never have, and never will, strike, or otherwise abuse, a woman or child. All my friends are chips off the same block; at least to the best of my knowledge. What I think we have to do in Eswatini is to say – apart from abuse that merits criminal prosecution, the past is the past. Let’s pledge for the future; and do it openly.

Ok, here’s a suggestion. The agencies out to fight abuse should mobilise some financial resources and use them to get labels printed – ‘I will not abuse women and children’ and ask every male adult to stick it on the car window (next to ‘Protect the Rhino’! lol), or the briefcase, or the front door. The ‘will’ word is essential since the past is past; it’s the future on which we are focusing. And please, let’s get rid of that ridiculous ‘either/or’ sentencing eg (perhaps) ‘10 years jail or a fine of E5 000’. Retribution for a serious crime should never display a price tag; certainly not a ridiculously tiny one as is usually quoted. Some of the ‘either/or’ sentences make me want to weep; and that’s not a pretty sight either.

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