Maputo — A Maputo judge has granted businessman Rufino Licuco an injunction seeking to forbid his former girlfriend, Josina Machel, daughter of Mozambique's first President, Samora Machel, from using his name or image.
A court announcement published on Thursday gives Josina eight days to appeal against the injunction.
This is the latest stage in a legal battle arising from a violent incident in October 2015, in which Josina was blinded in one eye. The case came to trial in February 2017, and the Maputo City Court found Licuco guilty of assault and of domestic and psychological violence. The court sentenced Licuco to a prison term of three years and four months.
The sentence was suspended for five years - on condition that Licuco pay his victim damages of over 200.6 million meticais (about 2.7 million US dollars at today's exchange rates). Rather than pay up, Licuco appealed, and, in a ruling that was a blow to all Mozambican women threatened by abusive husbands or boyfriends, the Higher Appeals Court overturned the verdict in June this year.
The appeals judges quashed the sentence of the lower court, which means that Licuco will not have to pay Josina Machel any damages at all.
The key part of the appeal was the claim "there is no proof that the accused injured the victim because the event allegedly occurred when the accused and the victim were alone and there were no witnesses to this crime".
Of course there were no witnesses! Abusive men do not assault their victims in front of rooms full of onlookers. But the undeniable fact is that Josina Machel has lost one of her eyes.
The Machel family issued a brief statement pointing that the Appeals Court ruling means that "justice has been denied, with very serious implications for thousands of victims of domestic violence who still believe in and seek support from our system for the administration of justice".
In an open letter published on 30 June, Josina said that she and the Machel family had believed in Mozambican justice. She had presented evidence she had believed was irrefutable, including a confession, and "recognised experts gave their professional testimony as to the origin of the injury to my face".
Josina added that "when I screamed for the first time, and told the health workers and the police what had just happened to me, I was alone, and I acted for the truth. I didn't know I was crying out on behalf of millions of other women".
Josina does not intend to give up. "To paraphrase my father, 'I have lost a battle, but we have not lost the war'", she said.
She argued that, in the search for justice, "the courage of women in making public their experiences of gender-based violence requires breaking secrecy, shame and stigma, and depositing trust in the protection of the law and the legal system".
But, as her own case had shown, "the criminal justice system often prejudices still further the victims and survivors of domestic violence. The justice system has now shown that it betrays the trust of the people, and encourages the perpetrators to go on beating, mutilating and killing us, covered with impunity".
Now Licuco intends to gag Josina. According to Thursday's issue of the independent newssheet "Carta de Mocambique", the injunction, granted by judge Judite Correia, instructs both Josina and the NGO against domestic violence that she founded, Kuhluka, to refrain "from using the name or image of the applicant (Licuco)". This covers "any electronic, mechanical or photographic process, including photocopies or any type of recording in peogrammes, or private or public events in which they intend to defend any social, political, personal or community cause".
If the injunction is allowed to stand, Josina will not be allowed to so much as mention the name of the man accused of mutilating her.