Maputo – A Maputo court on Tuesday sentenced the man who blinded Josina Machel, daughter of Mozambique’s first President, Samora Machel and of former Education Minister Graça Machel, to a prison sentence of three years and four months.
The man, Rofino Licuco, a wealthy Maputo businessman, was Josina’s boyfriend between 2012 and 2015. On October 17, 2015 he beat her on the face so badly that she was blinded in her right eye.
To the displeasure of the Machel family, the court suspended the prison sentence for five years, on the grounds that Licuco is a first offender. It also ordered him to pay Josina compensation of 200 million meticais (about R38 million) and to reimburse her for all the costs of her medical treatment.
If Licuco does not pay the compensation within 30 days, the prison sentence will be executed. However, matters could be delayed for much longer if Licuco appeals against the sentence. He has five days in which to appeal, and that will have the effect of suspending the entire sentence including the compensation.
“I am pleased that he was convicted, but I am not pleased that the sentence was suspended. I wanted him to go to prison. The message should be sent out that, if a man assaults a woman, he will go to jail," Graça Machel said at a press conference later on Tuesday.
Nonetheless, Josina regarded the verdict as a victory “which should be celebrated by all women who are physically, verbally, financially or sexually abused”. She offered this victory “for all those who suffer in silence, and for all those women who die, every day, in domestic violence”.
She was determined that her assailant should be prosecuted – even though she found the legal proceedings “intrusive and humiliating”. For Licuco denied all responsibility for Josina’s injuries. He said she had been drinking, and “she tripped and fell”.
Repeatedly, Josina had to relive the night of the assault, explaining exactly what had happened. She was examined by eight separate doctors. The court concluded that the weight of the medical evidence was clearly that Josina had suffered a severe assault.
Her mother attacked the “character assassination” of Josina that had occurred in some of the Mozambican press, who had printed Licuco’s version of events, claiming that Josina had fabricated the assault.
Graça Machel pointed out that none of these papers ever contacted the Machel family to hear Josina’s side of the story. “They broke a basic rule of journalism”, she accused, and were “converting the victim into the guilty party”.
Josina plans to use the compensation from Licuco to help other abused women. She will give it to the NGO Kuhluka, which she set up to support women who are the victims of gender-based violence, and to give them a voice.