MAPUTO, The Higher Council of the Judicial Magistracy (CSMJ), the disciplinary body for Mozambican judges, has expelled two judges for serious violations of judicial ethics.

Judite Simao was a judge in the Marracuene district court in Maputo Province who achieved media fame by ruling in favour of a land invasion, in which people claiming to be natives of Marracuene occupied an area of about 200 hectares belonging to Milhulamete, a company setting up a eucalyptus plantation. They then began illegally selling off plots of land.

The company, which held a legitimate title to use of the land, complained against Simao’s behavior, and the CSMJ opened disciplinary proceedings. She was accused of holding a meeting in a Marracuene restaurant, in which she suggested to representatives of the company that they should negotiate with local neighbourhood representatives to persuade them to change the statements they had given to the court.

According to a report in the independent daily, O Pais, the CSMJ found that she had violated her duty to act with impartiality, by giving opinions and offering informal advice to parties to the dispute. Furthermore, by failing to take decisions in good time, particularly when these involved restraining orders, she had acted in a way that denied justice to citizens.

The CSMJ stressed that the behavior of judges should never affect the trust which citizens place in the legal system and should never call their impartiality into question. But “this trust and guarantee of impartiality are seriously affected by the fact that the accused (Simao) held meetings with people linked to the case at a crucial phase in the case”, the CSMJ said.

Simao “was not serious in exercising her duties, did not bring dignity to the magistracy, and did not contribute to promoting citizens’ confidence in justice”, it added. She had committed previous offences and showed no sign of regretting her behavior. She had “violated the essence of her profession”, and had “damaged the image of the Mozambican State, whose institutions should be at the service of citizens”.

The second judge expelled from the profession, Roberto Balate, of the Manica Provincial Court, was found guilty of issuing sentences in favour of accused persons in exchange for money. He had also ordered court officials to issue cheques, on court accounts, to people outside the institution.