Swazi Na­tional, Mag­is­trate’s Courts have lim­ited power over debt dis­putes


The S wazi Nati onal a nd t he Mag­is­trate’s Courts have no ju­ris­dic­tion over money dis­putes. More of­ten than not, when peo­ple are be­ing owed money they run to these courts to seek an in­ter­ven­tion and for some jus­tice to be served, es­pe­cially when the debtor co­op­er­ates with the law of­fi­cers. If not, the cases tends to drag for a life­time.

This pub­li­ca­tion has es­tab­lished that the Govern­ment of Swazi­land is in a process of in­tro­duc­ing small claims courts to plug this gap, re­vealed the At­tor­ney Gen­eral Si­fiso Khu­malo dur­ing an in­ter­view this past week.

How­ever, he pointed out that the min­is­ter of jus­tice or the chief jus­tice was the right per­sons to dwell on such a topic.

“The Swazi courts have cases that they work on as gov­erned by the law, cases of peo­ple ow­ing each other money are civil cases so even if you can take the debtor to the Mag­is­trates Court, the court will not have power be­cause it has lim­ited pow­ers in such cases,” Khu­malo re­vealed.

“I un­der­stand that we are in the process of es­tab­lish­ing small claims courts but you can con­firm that with the chief jus­tice. In small claims courts, it is where in­stant jus­tice will be avail­able for such cases,” Khu­malo added.

When asked on when the pub­lic can ex­pect such courts to start op­er­at­ing, Khu­malo said it was within the ju­di­cial ju­ris­dic­tion.

The at­tor­ney gen­eral fur­ther ex­plained that the small claims courts will not be es­tab­lished for only cases of peo­ple who owe each other money.

Ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion gath­ered from of­fi­cials work­ing at the Swazi Na­tional and Mag­is­trate’s Courts, these two sys­tems of jus­tice lack an in­stru­ment to ar­rest debtors who are not will­ing to pay back monies they owe.

A war­rant of ar­rest can only be is­sued against the debtor when he or she failed to pitch in court; this charge is called con­tempt of court.

Min­is­ter of Jus­tice and Con­sti­tu­tional Af­fairs Edgar Hil­lary in a brief in­ter­viewed also con­firmed the news of es­tab- lish­ing a small claim courts in the coun­try.

“There’s a Bill that we are still work­ing on, small claims courts are an in­ter­na­tional phe­nom­e­nal,” he said.

Min­is­ter Hil­lary went on to men­tion that small claims courts were for mi­nor cases, fur­ther giv­ing an ex­am­ple of when one owes an­other one a sum of E400. He said such cases should be dealt by the small claims courts.

He added that it was not yet clear on when such courts can start op­er­at­ing. He em­pha­sised that for now his min­istry was work­ing on the Bill as there was a need for a piece leg­is­la­tion to be passed on to le­galise the court.

He fur­ther men­tioned that there was a need for the court to be har­monised with other courts.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Si­fiso Khu­malo.

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