Maputo — A senior Mozambican judge, Osvalda Joana, admitted on Friday that there are serious problems of corruption in the Mozambican judiciary.
Speaking at the "Congress for Justice", organised by the Mozambican Bar Association, Joana (who has just been appointed to the Supreme Court) said it had become normal for citizens to request audiences with judges. At the end of the audience they leave on the table an envelope containing money.
Joana recalled that an unsuccessful attempt had been made to corrupt her.
She had fallen seriously ill and a citizen offered to put a light plane at her disposal that would fly her to a clinic in South Africa, where this benefactor would pay for her treatment.
Joana turned the offer down, and sought treatment in Mozambican hospitals, paying out of her own pocket.
After she had recovered, she investigated her would-be benefactor to discover what was behind his generosity. She found out that he was being sued by one of the country's banks over a debt of three million dollars.
"Imagine what would have happened if I had accepted a ride in that plane!" she exclaimed. "I would have been compromised".
Another participant in the Congress, Orlando Jorge, argued that not all gifts are bribes. He gave the example of a victim of stock theft, who went to court. The case was resolved in his favour, and the thief was found guilty. The farmer then offered a cow to the judge in thanks.
"Is this a crime?" asked Jorge. "Is receiving gifts forbidden in this country? It is very normal to be offered livestock in the countryside. But if we ask academics about this matter, they would repudiate it".
Joana disagreed. While she recognised that such cases might exist, she thought it prudent to refuse such gifts. She thought there was no such thing as a free gift, and behind something that appeared to be offered with the best of intentions, there might lie a trap.