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MBABANE – Some magistrates are said to be reluctant to sign warrants of arrest, as these later make it to social media platforms and in turn compromise their security.

In the wake of the spate of arson attacks and law enforcement agents being shot, this publication has gathered that some magistrates have become reluctant to sign the warrants of arrest, inclusive of those for search and seizure. A warrant is a document issued by a legal or government official authorising the police or another body to make an arrest, search premises, or carry out some other action relating to the administration of justice. These documents are issued according to the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act. Meanwhile, it has been gathered that the judicial officers have in the past raised concerns over their security as the threats spiraled to their immediate families.


It is worth noting that magistrates are not afforded any security and are often seen moving about in various places on their own, unlike judges who are accompanied by police officers when engaging in errands in town. Judges also enjoy protection when in the confines of their residence from a private security company. On the other hand, the Chief Justice (CJ), Bheki Maphalala, enjoys protection by members of the Royal Eswatini Police Service (REPS), who guard his residences and also form a cavalcade when he is on transit. Meanwhile, according to impeccable sources within the Judiciary, some of the magistrates have raised concerns over their protection, following that a number of warrants have been posted on various social media platforms.

When posted on social media platforms, these warrants have drawn the ire of some sectors of society who may be against the arrest of that individual, resulting in threats being made against the judicial officer who issued the warrant and their immediate families. The judicial officers who this publication engaged raised concerns that their safety was being disregarded, despite that the political climate did not permit this, given their involvement in cases emanating from some of the arrests emanating from the political landscape. They claimed that once they issued the warrants of arrest and or search and seizure, they circulated on social media, wherein members of the public accused them of being partial and or being against the people.


This, they claimed, had been raised in various platforms and they were yet to get surety that executing their duties would not threaten their lives and their immediate families. The judicial officers claimed that in one of the interactions wherein they raised their concerns, a suggestion of constant patrols within their residences was made. This, they claimed, was not good enough as the political situation in the country rendered them targets.  Until their security concerns were addressed, some magistrates said they would have difficulty signing warrants, especially if they were of a political nature. The officers cited a number of incidents wherein warrants which dated back to the height of political unrest in the kingdom, including those issued for the arrest of legislators in Hosea Constituency Member of Parliament (MP) Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza, Ngwempisi Constituency MP Mthandeni Dube and former Siphofaneni MP Mduduzi ‘Gawuzela’ Simelane, made their way to social media.

A recent warrant of arrest that has been circulated on social media was issued in the Hhohho Region on June 20, 2022. The search warrant was issued against political activists residing in the Hhohho Region. It insinuated that the political activists were either involved in a charge or an offence, suspected in a commission of an offence, were in reasonable grounds believed to be concerned in the execution of an offence or may afford evidence of the suspected commission of a crime. Pursuant to the allegations and concerns raised by the judicial officers, a questionnaire was sent to the Acting Registrar of the Supreme Court, Siphiwo Masuku. She was informed that this publication was pursuing an article subsequent to allegations that judicial officers were no longer keen to sign warrants of arrest and also those of search and seizure.

Masuku was informed that the reason advanced by some of the judicial officers was that their security was compromised as the legal documents found their way to social media platforms. In light of this, her assistance was sought to establish if any judicial officers had expressed concerns over their security after warrants they had signed were published in social media platforms. She was also questioned on what was being done to ensure that their safety was not compromised while they executed their duties and what was being done to ensure that they were safe. Masuku was also asked if the concerns of leaking official documents had been addressed within the Judiciary and what was a long-lasting solution to the concerns said to be raised by the judicial officers.


The questionnaire was sent on Saturday evening to Masuku and she confirmed receiving of it as she recited the queries brought to her attention on Saturday. However, she said they would need time to respond. On the other hand, Chief Police Information and Communications Officer Superintendent Phindile Vilakati said the issue would be raised in relevant structures.
When asked if it would not affect their line of work as some investigations needed the warrants, Vilakati said: “I can’t discuss that with the media as it is an operational matter.” It is worth noting that the police rely on magistrates when seeking search and seizure warrants and want certain individuals to offer evidence in their investigations.

It is also worth noting that the concerns by some of the judicial officers are against the backdrop of security personnel being killed by unknown assailants. Last Monday, this publication reported that a police officer under the Traffic Department was shot by an unknown gunman.  The police officer, Sibusiso Matsebula, was killed about 500 metres from his duty station - Matsapha Police Station, as the daring gunman shot him at Sigodvweni at about 7pm. The gunman reportedly cocked his gun in front of street vendors before assassinating Matsebula. His death was subsequent to a request made by Chief Police Information and Communications Officer Superintendent Vilakati two Saturdays ago.

Vilakati made a request to the public for any information that would assist with an investigation into the circumstances that led to the fatal shooting and injury of police officers.
She said members of the public who might have any information that would lead to the arrest of those involved in the shooting (of police officers) could contact Manzini Regional Crime Branch Officer (RCBO) Thabo Hlophe on his mobile phone number 7606 8570 or the Desk Officer, Mphatsi Shabangu, at cellphone number 7604 3738. This was after a female officer, Zinhle Mavuso, from northern Hhohho, was shot dead while her colleague was shot in the chest. This incident happened in the wee hours of Saturday on the outskirts of the Manzini Central Business District (CBD).


During this attack, it was said at least 14 gunshots were fired at the motor vehicle that was being used by the two officers to patrol around the area, to ensure that the heavy plant machinery used by two construction companies was safe from the arson attacks currently being witnessed countrywide. The heavy plant machinery is said to belong to Inyatsi Construction Group and Stefanutti Stocks and is parked at two different sites close to the interchange road being constructed. On the other hand, Matsebula was the third State security agent to have been shot dead by unknown gunmen. Last month, a member of the Umbutfo Eswatini Defence Force (UEDF) was shot dead by gunmen who attacked him at his home where he was reportedly holding a home cell prayer at New Village in Manzini.

Another attempt at killing police officers was witnessed last month when two traffic police officers were aimed at by gunmen while they were inside the Royal Eswatini Police Service (REPS) caravan. The REPS caravan is normally parked at the cooling station for trucks at Mangwaneni, just before descending the Malagwane Hill. The cooling station is situated along the MR3 Public Road, behind the prime minister’s residence. The shooting incident happened at around 11pm and one of the police officers was shot on the chin while going about his duties inside the caravan and had to be admitted to a healthcare facility. His colleague escaped without injuries.

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