Poor service at masters office and unacceptable treatment of widows and dependents of deceased

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The Human Rights Consortium, under the auspice of the Coordinating Assembly of NGOs (CANGO) notes with concern, of the ever increasing complaints against the Office of the Master of the High Court. These complaints emanate from beneficiaries of deceased persons estates in which poor service by the office, and sometimes non disbursement of funds is constantly raised.

The Human Rights Consortium has learnt of reports of a widow who  threatened  to sleep at the Office of the Master of the High Court premises due to non-payment of  her portion of her late husband’s estate which emanates from 2019. The office had to seek police intervention to remove her from the office. Sadly, we have noted that there are plenty such cases and nothing is being done to solve them. To this end, the Human Rights Consortium strongly condemns the poor treatment of widows and beneficiaries of deceased estates.

The Office of the Master of the High Court is reminded that it is a public office which serves public interests. Therefore, services are expected to be rendered in an expedient and efficient manner. The Office should be cognizant that the socio economic effects of the poor service on the most vulnerable groups which  includes but not limited to orphans, women and widows, is inhuman and not in line with the values of ‘Ubuntu’, which is ‘Buntfu’ in Siswati.

The consortium is also aware of the serious allegations of maladministration, abuse of power, and brazen embezzlement of estate monies at the Office of the Master of the High Court. Furthermore, the fact that the Chief Justice and the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) obtained an interim order stopping the investigation by a Parliament Select Committee further deepens suspicion that perhaps there is element of truth to these allegations. Whilst we will not delve into the technical legal arguments for obtaining the interim order, we are aware of the importance of the separation of powers in the three branches of government (Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary).

It is sad that Emaswati work hard their whole lives only for their beneficiaries not to benefit at all due to alleged mal administration. This amounts to gross violations of human rights, more specifically, the dignity of the beneficiaries who are being pushed into a life of poverty and squalor.

As human rights defenders, we implore the office of the Master of the High Court to improve service delivery and ensure that those who steal money from estates face the full force of the law. Furthermore, the consortium advocates for a parliamentary inquiry into the serious allegations of the office as this is a public office which deals with matters of significant public interest.

Emaswati deserve better!

4 October 2022

By the Human Rights Consortium

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