Watch: Josina's fight for justice

2017-03-05 06:01
Josina Machel. Picture: Leon Sadiki

Josina Machel. Picture: Leon Sadiki

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Barefoot and in a dress drenched in blood flowing from her right eye, Josina Machel – the daughter of former first lady Graça Machel – was on her knees pleading for help at a public hospital in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique.

Not even her family name could help her jump the queue – even in this emergency. For three hours, she screamed and groaned in pain.

Her boyfriend, Mozambican businessman Rofino Lucico, had unleashed a blow that pierced her eye during a violent argument which took place on October 17 2015, her mother’s 70th birthday.

Abroad at the time, Graça had expected the usual sweet birthday message from her first-born daughter, but the one she received informed her Josina was alone, blood-soaked and helpless.

After he battered her, Lucico dropped her off at the public hospital and left with her cellphone.

“I was on my knees, begging people to help me. I told them I was Josina Machel, the daughter of [late Mozambican president] Samora and Graça Machel, and it did not help.

"When he arrived at the hospital, my brother did not have to ask where I was – he ran down the corridors, following the direction where my screaming was coming from,” she told City Press on Friday.

This was only the beginning of Josina’s “gruelling” 16-month ordeal. From undergoing numerous medical procedures in South Africa and abroad to try to save her sight, to embarking on a titanic struggle for justice, this was the most difficult time of her life.

Three weeks after her attack, she discovered her statement and medical records were missing from the police docket. Without them, it would be impossible to prove her case in court.

“I had to go back and restart the process, and back at the same hospital they told me to prove that I was attended to there; I must point to the door I used and the bed I lay on, they said.

“How do I remember all that when I was in excruciating pain? I felt victimisation all over again,” Josina said.

“On one of my visits I was fortunate that one nurse came past, saw me and told them I was indeed attended to at that hospital. It was only then that I managed to get my medical records for court.”

Then her legal battle began. She recalls how difficult it was to stand in the witness box in court and describe how her ex-boyfriend assaulted her.

It was even harder to listen to him deny it.

“He told the court that I tripped, fell and had something pierce through my eye,” she said.

“It was not easy, but still my mum and I did not miss a single court sitting.”

"My new normal"

Late last month, Lucico was sentenced to three years and four months imprisonment.

But he will not spend any time in jail. Since he was a first-time offender, the court ruled that his sentence be suspended for five years.

He was ordered to pay Josina almost R40m and cover her medical expenses and other damages.

Josina was disappointed.

“I knew our case was solid. We had proved that a crime happened and in 30 seconds my life had changed. I was abused, beaten,” she said.

“I was shocked and could not believe it when the sentence was read out. I was sure that four years was the least he was going to get, but unfortunately, it was less – and even worse, a suspended sentence.

“But I was happy when I heard the words ‘found guilty’ and I was like, ‘Wow, I needed to hear that for all the abuse I have endured.’

“This is my victory ... I got him convicted under the law of man and God. I hope he and other perpetrators have also learnt something: you do not abuse a woman and get away with it.”

Josina has been told Lucico is planning to appeal his conviction and sentence.

But the case is over for her. She will not endure another round of “horrendous” time in court.

“I am disengaging from this bad energy and will not allow myself to go through another emotionally draining period. I am getting into a new phase of healing and activism against abuse, especially the abuse of voiceless and helpless women,” she said.

“I have two kids, aged 10 and 14, who woke up one day and their mum was not the same. They were badly affected and turned into my carers. It is time now for me to be myself, a mother to them once again.”

The beating plunged her into a world she calls “my new normal”. Her sight is gone in that eye. She can no longer drive and she cannot read for long periods of time.

“I believe God made me go through all this because he needed a new and dedicated soldier to the cause, and that is exactly what I am busy with.

“My experience was life-changing. I now understand the pain other victims go through,” Josina said.

“Millions are not able to do it by themselves; they lack the strength and are not fortunate, like I am, to have all the family support. I want to ensure victims get safe havens, legal advice and all the necessary medical assistance and emotional support.

“With all the support and other advantages I had, I still struggled to get justice, and I ask myself: What is happening to those who are forced into silence, those who cannot fight to get their statements and medical reports redone?

“We cannot allow that to happen and for victims to accept that a case must drag on for a year or more before they find closure.”

Before her case was concluded, Josina established her Kuhluka Movement to fight gender-based violence.

She has come to accept the irreparable damage to her eye and live with what happened, but her family was also affected.

“They are not the same after this whole thing. How do you expect my mum to sit with me in court, listen to all the details of how I was battered and to come out the same?” she asked.

“She wakes up every day and sees me looking different; it is not easy for her. When my brother came to the hospital he found me barefoot, bloodied and crying. And then he hugged me and his top and jeans were left drenched in blood, too.”

Read more on:    graça machel  |  crime

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