Maputo — South African judges in Johannesburg have been listening on Wednesday and Thursday to arguments as to whether Mozambique’s former Finance Minister, Manuel Chang, should be extradited to Mozambique or to the United States.
Chang is wanted in both countries on charges arising from the scandal of Mozambique’s “hidden loans” As Finance Minister in the government headed by President Armando Guebuza, Chang signed the illegal loan guarantees, in 2013 and 2014, which allowed three fraudulent companies to borrow over two billion US dollars from the banks Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia.
On 21 May, his last day in office, the previous South African Justice Minister, Michael Matsupha, who had been appointed by President Jacob Zuma, decided to extradite Chang to Mozambique. But the new Justice Minister, Ronald Lamola, appointed by Cyril Ramaphosa, is attempting to overturn Matsupha’s decision, describing it as irrational and unlawful.
Lawyers for the Mozambican government are trying to persuade the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg that Matsupha took the right decision and that Chang should indeed be returned to Mozambique.
The South African Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) and the Mozambican NGO, the Budgetary Monitoring Forum (FMO) have been allowed to address the court in support of Lamola.
As the proceedings continued, a group of Mozambicans resident in South Africa stood outside the court with placards demanding that Chang be sent to the United States.
The lawyer representing the HSF, Max du Plessis, argued that South Africa is bound by its constitution to ensure the effective prosecution of corruption, even if the offence does not occur within South Africa.
“South Africa’s commitment requires that, when making a decision to extradite, the country to which the person charged with corruption will be extradited has the necessary will and ability to prosecute the crime properly and successfully,” said du Plessis.
Matsupha “had obligations to ensure the effective investigation and prosecution of Chang for corruption and he was required to take the necessary steps to do so”, said du Plessis. He had not done so and this made his decision to extradite Chang to Mozambique “unlawful, irrational and unconstitutional”.
The court has now reserved judgment on the matter.