Handing over former Finance Minister Moz underscores the need for the SADC Court

Handing over former Finance Minister Moz underscores the need for the SADC Court

Lawyers and civil society in Mozambique have worked with regional partners to oppose the extradition of former Finance Minister Manuel Chang – accused of involvement in the theft of more than $2 billion from national coffers – from South Africa to Mozambique. After several years of legal action, this resulted in him finally being extradited to the United States instead.

Read more at The Daily Maverick: Mozambique’s former Finance Minister Manuel Chang heads to the United States to face corruption charges

With Chang’s extradition to the US a fait accompli, people are wondering: What are the lessons of the Southern African Development Community (SADC)?

In June 2023, I wrote an article arguing that Chang’s case shows how public interest litigation can increase accountability for economic crimes in Africa.

However, it is important to note that Chang’s case should not be understood as suggesting that the US legal system is better than the Mozambican one. far from it.

Instead, the case shows that, in the eyes of Mozambican civil society, there is less opportunity for political interference with the independence of the judiciary and the prosecution process in the United States than it might be in Mozambique. In other words, there is little trust and confidence on the part of Mozambicans in their institutions of justice.

This is a local issue, not a geopolitical or geostrategic issue. Restoring public confidence in the institutions of justice is the responsibility of the authorities in Mozambicans and can only be done by.

I personally know civil society colleagues from Mozambique who opposed extradition to Mozambique. They are very patriotic and African nationals; It must have been a very painful decision for them to oppose extraditing Zhang to Mozambique instead of the United States. However, they faced limited choices in terms of choosing between impunity and accountability. As recognized human rights activists and anti-corruption activists, they have chosen accountability over impunity.

Read more at The Daily Maverick: The Case of Manuel Chang from Mozambique: Civil Society Holds the Corrupt to Account

While civil society colleagues in Mozambique have considered options for ensuring justice and accountability outside of both Mozambique and the United States, the stark reality of a solution Southern African Development Community Court (SADC) stares at them. Faced with the belief that there could be no independent trial in Mozambique, approaching a regional court would have been an alternative.

However, SADC heads of state, in their wisdom or lack of it, under the bad political influence of late President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, forcibly dissolved the only judicial organ in the sub-region, the SADC Court.

Why was the SADC court dissolved?

Because it made judicial decisions that Mugabe did not like and angered him as head of state. He was alleged to have argued with his friends at SADC Heads of State meetings that they had created an animal they could not control.

But, then again, why should the judicial organ be seen as an “animal” controlled by the executive? Addressing them in this way destroys the separation of powers and checks and balances and fuels impunity for rights violations.

Fortunately, some courts such as the Constitutional Court of South Africa have since Established That “the participation of the President of the Republic of South Africa in the removal of the powers of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Court to hear individual claims was unconstitutional”.

the Tanzanian Supreme Court to a similar conclusion.

So, what should we learn from this delivery mess?

The main lesson is that governments in Africa must comply with the requirements of Article 26 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the establishment of truly independent and impartial courts to adjudicate disputes and the fight against impunity to establish a culture of justice and accountability.

SADC countries also need to ensure that the national prosecution function is independent and impartial to remove the current perception that exists in many countries that the prosecutorial function is used to persecute dissidents and to protect politically exposed criminals from accountability and justice to organized organizations. Including money laundering and illegal financial transactions.

For SADC heads of state, the sooner they recreate a sub-regional court, with human rights jurisdiction and individual access, the better for all. This means that the people of SADC are left with no choice but to seek justice in jurisdictions outside our continent. DM

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