Maputo — The KaMpfumo municipal district court, in Maputo city, on Wednesday sentenced the former mayor of the city, David Simango, to18 months imprisonment for crimes of corruption.
As has become standard practice for relatively short prison terms, his jail time has been converted into a fine. This is normally justified by the overcrowding in Mozambican prisons, made more threatening by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In addition to the converted prison sentence, Simango must pay a 15 month fine, at the daily rate of the minimum wage in the public service. The minimum monthly wage is 4,390 meticais (about 72 US dollars, at current exchange rates). The total 15 month fine comes to 1.9 million meticais.
Simango faced charges of illicitly accepting an offer or promise and abuse of his office. According to the Central Office for the Fight against Corruption (GCCC), which brought the case against the former mayor, the company Epsilon Investments gave Simango a flat in central Maputo, in exchange for the rights to a plot of land where it wanted to build a condominium.
The GCCC argued that, in order to hide the true nature of the deal, Epsilon signed a contract in July 2011 with Simango's wife, Celestina Gonzaga, under which she promised to buy the flat.
The GCCC believes the contract was no more than a device to hide the true nature of the arrangement - which was that Epsilon gave the flat to the then mayor, in exchange for title to the land it wanted.
Nine years after signing the contract, Gonzaga, according to the GCCC, had not paid anything at all for the flat, even though the contractual price was 457,000 US dollars. Nor had the company invoked the contractual clauses allowing it to take action against Gonzaga for non-payment.
Strangely enough, Epsilon was not in the dock alongside Simango, and vigorously denies any wrongdoing. Epsilon claims it was granted title to the land, not when Simango was mayor of the city (between 2008 and 2018), but over a decade earlier when the mayor was Joao Baptista Cosme.
Epsilon says that its commercial relation is only with Gonzaga and not with her husband. The company admits that Gonzaga has not paid in full for the flat, and for that reason it was still registered in the name of Epsilon.
The court thought otherwise. Not only did it sentence Simango to 18 months plus a heavy fine, but it also ordered that the flat be seized in favour of the Mozambican state, along with the rent paid by the last tenant (about 120,000 meticais).