Maputo — In a major shake-up of the Mozambican legal system, the country's judges will now find their annual holiday entitlement cut from two months to one.
Announcing the proposal, the spokesperson for the Supreme Court, Pedro Nhatitima, cited in Friday's issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”, said that from now on judges should take their holidays like any other state employee, and will be free to enjoy a month's paid leave at any time in the year.
The current system of collective “judicial holidays” covers the entire first two months of the year. In January and February only trials that began the previous year can continue, and no new trials may be started. So during those two months, Nhatitima noted, “the courts were stopped, interrupting the operations of a public service”.
Adding to the absurdity, one study has found that, although their holidays are supposed to take place in January and February, about 40 per cent of Mozambican judges take their holidays outside of that period, thus reducing still further the productivity of the judicial system.
The “judicial holidays”, Nhatitima accused, were partly responsible for overcrowding in the prisons, “particularly in the months of March and April, when the judges are returning from leave, and the courts are working at half speed”.
Detentions made by the police in January and February are not properly accompanied by magistrates (who should validate a detention within 48 hours), because they are all at home, he continued.
“We want to transmit the idea of continuity of service”, said Nhatitima. “Judges will take their holidays in the same way as anyone else. Reducing the holiday period will allow us to reduce the problem of prison overcrowding, and the excessive work load on the courts, and will guarantee a certain continuity in managing cases”.
Another reform proposed by the Supreme Court is to allow district courts to decide on the granting of provisional freedom to prisoners, instead of passing all such cases up to the provincial courts.