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The Higher Council of the Judicial Magistracy (CSMJ), the regulatory body for Mozambican judges, has suspended from office a judge who authorized an invasion of land legally attributed to a forestry company in the southern district of Marracuene, about 30 kilometres north of Maputo.
According to a report in Thursday’s issue of the independent newssheet “Mediafax”, the CSMJ on Wednesday decided unanimously to suspend judge Judite Mahoche, in the light of three complaints made against her.
The most recent case involved the forestry company Milhulamete, which went to court to secure the removal of a group of people calling themselves “natives of Marracuene” who had invaded and occupied parts of their forestry concession.
Since Milhulamete had the land title (DUAT) to the area, the invasion was, on the face of it, entirely illegal.
The argument of the invaders was that they had been on the land before the concession was awarded to Milhulamete. Milhulamete’s lawyers denied this, and said the houses erected on the land were of recent construction, and that the so-called “natives” had gone on building houses despite an initial restraining order, forbidding further construction.
Milhulamete said that the first houses to appear on its land had been built only a few days before the restraining order was issued. There was a way to prove this, which was to consult satellite images of the area, which would prove when the houses had been built.
But judge Mahoche, “Mediafax” noted, turned down Milhulamete’s request for the satellite images to be entered into evidence. Instead, she legitimised the invasion, overturned the restraining order, and allowed the invaders to continue occupying the land.
The land in question covers 767 hectares and had been acquired by Milhulamete in 1999. It had earlier been part of another forestry project, FO-2, which began as a woodfuel plantation, with Nordic funding, in the late 1970s. All the people genuinely living on FO-2 land had been resettled then, over 30 years ago.
Not only have the invaders occupied the Milhulamete concession, but they have destroyed eucalyptus trees, parcelled up the land and begun selling it, in blatant violation of the ban in the constitution and the Land Law on the buying and selling of land. Plots of land varying in size from 450 to 600 square metres are being sold for between 70,000 and 100,000 meticais (930 to 1,330 US dollars, at current exchange rates).
Milhulamete says that, since the invasion began, about 200 hectares of eucalyptus trees have been destroyed, and warns that someone will have to pay for this. As holder of the legal title to the land, its position ought to be very strong.
Milhulamete warns that this case could set a dangerous precedent. If the Marracuene invaders are allowed to stay, no company granted title to land will feel secure.Source: AIM