MOZAMBIQUE: Correcting Reuters

By Paul Fauvet
reuters_reporter.jpgReuters Reporter in action Maputo - The Reuters news agency has won an international reputation for fair and accurate reporting - but when it comes to Mozambique, that agency has lapsed i

The latest is a story which claims that on 24 April President Armando
Guebuza fired three top judges. The story asserts that no reason was
given for the decision.

In fact, the President did no such thing. Under the Mozambican
constitution, Guebuza has no power to sack judges. But the three men in
question – the President of the Supreme Court, the President of the
Administrative Tribunal, and the Chairperson of the Constitutional
Council – all have fixed, five year terms of office.

At the end of those five years, the President can either reappoint them
for another five year term, or can appoint somebody else (and in the
cases of the Supreme Court and the Administrative Tribunal the
appointments must then be ratified by the country's parliament, the
Assembly of the Republic).

The President of the Supreme Court, Mario Mangaze, has already served
four terms of office. He has headed the court for 20 years. Indeed, he
is the only President the court has known since it was set up in its
current shape in 1988. There was nothing remotely surprising about
Guebuza's decision not to appoint him for a fifth term.

But Mangaze remains a member of the Supreme Court. The only body that
could strip him of his status as a Supreme Court judge is the Supreme
Council of the Judicial Magistrature, the regulatory and disciplinary
body for judges.

The President of the Administrative Tribunal, the body that checks the
legality of public expenditure, and audits the state accounts, Antonio
Pale, has served for ten years.

The only one of the three who has only served one term of office is Rui
Baltazar, chairperson of the Constitutional Council, the highest
authority on constitutional matters, and the body that validates and
proclaims election results. Baltazar is perhaps the most experienced
jurist in the country – he was an anti-fascist lawyer defending
political prisoners under the colonial regime, he served as justice and
finance minister after independence, he was vice-chancellor of the
country's largest university, and he served as head of the
Constitutional Council for the last five years.

And he is 76 years old. Reappointing him would mean demanding that he
stay in office until his 81st year. But perhaps the Reuters
correspondent does not believe that people have the right to retire.

Undoubtedly the worst aspect in the Reuters story is the claim that
Guebuza gave no reason for his decisions. This can only mean that the
Reuters correspondent concerned did not even bother to read the text of
the three presidential dispatches relieving the three of their duties
and appointing their successors. In each case it was clearly stated
that their terms of office had expired.

The Reuters story also makes the remarkable claim that the
Constitutional Council's rulings on elections are typically not
challenged. This is only true in the narrow sense that they cannot be
challenged because there is no appeal against Constitutional Council

But the main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, has
never accepted the election results proclaimed by the Council. It
refused to accept the Council ruling the Guebuza won the 2004
presidential election, and that the Frelimo Party won a huge majority
in the parliamentary elections of that year. And today it continues to
reject the Council's decision that, in the 2008 local elections,
Frelimo won in 42 out of the 43 municipalities.


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