Check out below SALC’s Deputy Director ‘s piece in the City Press this weekend on the current rash of women’s rights cases in southern Africa. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

This month in Botswana, four elderly sisters get to breathe a sigh of relief.

Due to a bombshell judgment from the Botswana High Court, they were able to stave off an eviction from their home by other family members.

These women are not unique. Throughout southern Africa, women are dispossessed of property when their fathers or husbands die. However, what makes their situation remarkable is that when confronted with dispossession, they went to court and won.

The case brought by the four sisters challenged a local customary law rule that mandated that the family home, which in most cases is the bulk of the estate, went to the youngest son.

However, in this particular family, the youngest child was a woman, one of the applicants. The law though was clear: women did not inherit the family home under this regime.

The four sisters who had all lived on the property at various times, and had claimed they had assisted in renovating and expanding the home, challenged the rule, arguing that it violated their right to equality under the Botswana Constitution.

The attorney-general of Botswana had been asked by the court to present the government’s arguments in the matter.

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The Southern Africa Litigation Centre is pleased to share the report, Tackling Cervical Cancer: Improving Access to Cervical Cancer Services for Women in Southern Africa.  Cervical cancer is a leading cause of cancer death among women in southern Africa, and is either the primary or secondary cause of cancer death among women in all 10 countries in which the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) works. Moreover, the negative impact of cervical cancer is exacerbated in southern Africa given the high prevalence of HIV among women in the region.

Cervical cancer is easily preventable and treatable in any resource setting. However, necessary services to prevent and treat cervical cancer have not been made available or easily accessible in southern Africa. The report, based on a combination of desktop research and field research in Namibia and Zambia on the availability of and access to cervical cancer services, found that very few countries in the region have comprehensive policies on cervical cancer. Essential prevention services such as screening and vaccination are also not widely available in the public health sector in most countries, and treatment for both pre-cancerous lesions and invasive cancer remains a challenge. Read the rest of this entry »

On 12 October 2012, the Botswana High Court struck down a customary law rule which denied women the right to inherit the family home. This is the first decision of its kind in Botswana. Read our summary of the judgment below. You can find the full judgment here. Read the rest of this entry »

The 52nd Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, held in Yamoussoukro, Cote D’Ivoire from 9-22 October 2012, celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the Commission.

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On 29 and 30 October 2012 the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria will hear argument in Consortium for Refugees and Migrants Rights in South Africa (CoRMSA) v President of the Republic of South Africa and Others. CoRMSA, with the support of SALC and legal representation of the Wits Law Clinic, will argue that former Rwandan general and suspected war criminal, Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, is not eligible for refugee status. This Q and A will tell you everything you need to know about the case. For live updates from the Court room follow SALC on twitter @follow_SALC and visit the SALC website for even more information.

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In September 2011, two months after the devastating anti-government protests in Malawi which left 19 people dead and in the midst of a violent and coordinated crackdown on political critics, a young student activist, Robert Chasowa was found dead on his university campus. Police ruled the death a suicide, but his family, friends and fellow activists believed that the injuries Chasowa suffered were inconsistent with a suicide and instead pointed to murder – one which they believed was politically motivated. However the political climate under former President Bingu wa Mutharika which imposed a veil of secrecy and oppression of dissent meant there was little chance of the truth emerging and those responsible being brought to justice.   

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On Thursday, the Botswana High Court will issue judgment in Mmusi and Others v Ramantele and Others, a case challenging a customary law rule providing for male only inheritance of the family home. The judgment will address whether a rule which clearly discriminates against women violates the right to equality enshrined in the Botswana Constitution. The Court had requested the Attorney-General’s intervention in the matter. The Attorney-General argued that regardless of the fact that the rule was discriminatory, Botswana society was not ready for equality and thus the unequal rule must stand.

SALC will provide live updates from the courtroom via twitter (@Follow_SALC) on Thursday.

While civil society is still reeling from SADC’s recent decision to strip southern Africa’s regional court, the SADC Tribunal, of the ability to serve the interests of the region’s citizens, the Supreme Court of Appeal, seemingly unperturbed by recent events, confirmed that judgments of the now-defunct Tribunal are enforceable in South Africa. The SCA confirmed that property belonging to the Zimbabwean government may be attached and sold in execution of a cost order handed down by the SADC Tribunal.

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The Supreme Court of Appeal has granted the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the South African Police Service (SAPS) leave to appeal the Zimbabwe Torture Case in which the North Gauteng High Court ordered the NPA and SAPS to investigate crimes against humanity committed in Zimbabwe.

The Supreme Court of Appeal is however likely to limit legal argument to the interpretation of the section 4(1) and section 4(3)(c) of the Implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Act (ICC Act). These provisions deal with the jurisdiction of the South African authorities to investigate international crimes committed beyond South Africa’s borders. The following findings of the High Court will therefore not be challenged: that a reasonable basis exists to believe that crimes against humanity were committed in Zimbabwe; that the NPA and SAPS did not take South Africa’s international obligations into consideration in taking the decision not to investigate; the nature and extent of the obligation of the NPA and SAPS to investigate and prosecute international crimes; the evidentiary threshold for triggering an investigation in terms of the ICC Act;  and the (ir)relevance of political considerations in relation to decisions taken to investigate under the ICC Act.

Hearing dates have not been allocated. More information about the Zimbabwe Torture Case and the Appeal is available HERE. For regular updates on this and other cases follow SALC on Twitter @follow_salc

According to United Nations statistics South Africa accounted for one fifth of the world’s asylum applications, registering a staggering 180 600 applications in 2010 alone, making South Africa the most sought after destination for asylum seekers in the world. Not every one of those persons would have been successful; in fact, if South Africa’s immigration authorities did their job properly, some would have been turned  away, the deserving would be allowed to stay and some would have been found to be ineligible. With regard to ineligibility, South Africa is, under international refugee law,  prohibited from extending protections to persons if there is reason to believe that he or she has been involved in the commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. This prohibition is contained in the exclusion provisions, found in virtually every domestic refugee act around the world, and is perhaps a country’s first line of defence against becoming a safe haven for international offenders.

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