TOP lawyer Thabani Mpofu has once again written to the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) refuting allegations raised by Joseph Crnkovic, a former finance officer for Chegutu-based mining company Dallagio Investments, who says he received a bribe to conceal racism allegations levelled against the company and its chief executive officer Michael Fowler leading to his dismissal.
Mpofu however insisted he only got paid for presiding over the inquiry that heard the racism allegations.
Mpofu has been involved in a wrangle with Crnkovic who was co-accused with Fowler in a racism scandal involving Dallagio workers.
In February 2020, the duo was reported to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) by Norton Independent legislator Temba Mliswa, who had received racism and emotional abuse reports from the company’s employees, leading to the institution of a fact-finding independent inquiry headed by Mpofu.
Crnkovic has been alleging that Mpofu received a US$5 000 bribe from Dallagio Investments to exonerate Fowler, and that he has solely targeted him in the tribunal that led to his dismissal.
“For what did you receive the payment of US$5 000 . . . that was agreed personally between yourself and Mr Hossack with the payment administered by myself. On appearance it would seem this payment was a financial inducement to yourself to ignore the allegation against the primary accused to protect him and allow blame to be shifted only to me,” Crnkovic said in an email to Mpofu, that was copied to the UK Legal Council, Zimbabwe Legal Council and Croatian Consul.
Mpofu responded, saying that he was facing extortionate means by Crnkovic, as reported by The NewsHawks last week.
This refers to any conduct that involves the use, or an express or implicit threat of use, of violence or other criminal means to cause harm to the person or property of the debtor or any member of his family.
In his latest letter dated 4 October 2022 to the LSZ, Mpofu also said the allegations being raised against him were not clear.
“Regrettably, the allegations made against me are not easy to understand. They however, seem to be the following: That I was bribed by Dallagio in order to turn a blind eye to the allegations made against its Mike Fowler and to concentrate instead on the allegations made against Crnkovic, a junior employee.
“That as a result of my discharge of function, and having exercised such function with partiality, Crknovic lost his employment with Dallagio. That I am now representing some human rights violators who have been violating Crnkovic’s rights, and that I have improperly refused to meet Crnkovic.
“I deny these allegations which are in my view nonsensical and I respond to them in the manner set out below,” said Mpofu in his latest letter seen by The NewsHawks.
Mpofu said he was instead paid – not bribed, by Dallagio for the services he rendered in heading the inquiry that looked into the human rights abuse allegations levelled against Crnkovic and Fowler.
“I was obviously paid … for the inquiry I conducted. I had to be paid by Dallagio because it was its inquiry and work that I had to undertake. I could not have been expected to conduct an inquiry for free. In fact, whenever I have conducted inquiries or disciplinary hearings, I have been paid by the employer party. That is how it works.
“I also wish to point out to the absurdity of the allegation that I, a private individual, acting in my own capacity as a professional, could be bribed by another private party. That simply does not make legal sense,” the letter read.
Mpofu also said he has not been responsible for the dismissal of Crnkovic who was sacked after the inquiry since he exonerated him during the hearings, which he said can be confirmed by Dallagio.
He attached his report following the inquiry.
“It is apparent that: I acquitted the complainant on the allegations he was facing. I stand by his acquittal,” Mpofu wrote.
“Regarding the high staff turnover, I found that at least one person had been unfairly dismissed. The person who had dismissed that individual placed evidence before me admitting to having dismissed the individual concerned and I saddled him with the consequences of his confession.
“Whilst I made various recommendations on the human resources position in the company, my findings speak for themselves and it is false that I caused the loss of the complainant’s employment. I ‘acquitted’ the complainant.
“It is, therefore, not correct that the complainant lost his employment by reason of any partial discharge of function on my part. In fact, if he does not agree with my findings, he must challenge them. The clear position, however, is that he has nothing to challenge.
“I have since ascertained from Dallagio that it parted ways with the complainant for reasons that had nothing to do with the inquiry. I challenge him to prove his contrary assertion.”
During his tenure as financial officer, Crnkovic said he received an email from Zweli Lunga,a partner in Promethious Law/Lunga – Dallagio’s legal representative –requesting him to pay US$5 000 to the law firm for onward transmission to Mpofu, which he alleges was a bribe for exonerating the primary accused suspect, Fowler.
Mpofu also accused Crnkovic of interfering with his attorney work.
Crnkovic alleged that the primary accuser in the racism case, Mliswa, was his client, in an email to Mpofu – which the latter denies.
“The allegation that Temba Mliswa is my client is nonsensical,” Mpofu said. “I have obviously represented Hon Mliswa just as I have represented thousands of other Zimbabweans. That however, does not make him ‘my client’. I am counsel.
“Besides, the allegations against the complainant were made by Hon Mliswa. How then does my knowledge of Hon Mliswa come into my acquittal of the complainant?”
Mpofu said the allegations against him have nothing to do with the inquiry he headed in 2020, but with the dispute in respect of which the Crnkovic is trying to compromise him.
In 2021, conflict ensued between Crnkovic and other shareholders who were trying to buy him by offering him shares in an extension of Glen Forest cemetery.
Crnkovic refused, rather opting that the land be reserved for residential accommodation and agriculture.
Mpofu went on to represent Candrina Investments, a company that owns Glen Forest Cemetery, to the disdain of Crnkovic who expressed displeasure in an email.
“Why are you representing Mr. (Fungai) Mparadzi and his associates when they have a history of human and constitutional rights violations against me?
At present I am defending at constitutional a criminal charge pressed against me by Mr. Mparadzi in his personal capacity, whilst you represent him and his close associates as advocate, against the 100 UK shareholders I represent,” he wrote.