TOP lawyer Advocate Thabani Mpofu is piling pressure on embattled Zimbabwean High Court judge Justice Webster Chinamora, who is facing a series of accusations ranging from conflict of interest, judicial misconduct, bribery to different forms of corruption.
Mpofu is pinning Chinamora in a case where another lawyer Advocate Taona Nyamakura lodged a complaint against Chinamora for alleged conflict of interest in a legal dispute between Zimbabwe’s Delta Beverages (Pvt) Ltd, Schweppes Zimbabwe Ltd and Blakey Plastics (Pty) Ltd, a South African company.
Mpofu reported Chinamora to the Judicial Service Commission over the case. The corporate dispute was heard by Chinamora who ruled in favour of Blakely.
Mpofu represented Delta Beverages. Delta appealed Chinamora’s decision, which came at a time when a parallel arbitration process was ongoing in South Africa.
When Nyamakura, Blakely’s lawyer, was working on legal advice — writing an opinion for Blakely — he was given two large cases containing box files and documents that relate to the dispute in the Blakely matter.
However, as Nyamakura was going through the documents, he came across numerous personal papers belonging to Chinamora.
The papers, that included a file containing the judge’s conditions of service, his original divorce order and file, original vehicle licence for a Land Rover Discovery, lease agreement, company documents, and building plans for a residential dwelling being constructed in Carrick Creagh, among others.
Nyamukura raised alarm and reported the matter to his seniors, including Mpofu, who, in turn, reported the matter to the JSC.
Mpofu is the chairperson of the Advocates Chambers hence the matter was reported to him. Nyamakura also reported the issue to the Law Society of Zimbabwe.
The matter is currently under investigation. In his initial letter to the JSC dated 14 October 2021, Mpofu said the matter had caused him a lot of concern as an officer of the court and head of the chambers, hence the need for an investigation.
“It is obvious to me that the court and arbitration papers that were transmitted to Advocate Nyamakura had been with or had at some stage found their way to Honourable Justice Chinamora or in the very least to someone close to him and who has an interest in the matter, explaining why they had ended up being mixed with his personal and intimate documents,” Mpofu argued.
“Honourable Justice Chinamora is the one who handled the matter between Blakey Investments and Delta Limited. The arbitration documents were not produced and do not form part of any court record in Zimbabwe. It is highly inconceivable that this mix up could have happened without the judge having personal contact with Blakey Investments.
“There is most assuredly a relationship between justice Chinamora and Blakey Investments that need to be investigated and explained. It is worrisome that, not just one, but numerous personal documents of the judge would be in the possession of Blakey Investments or that Blakey’s documents would be in the possession of the judge.
“Blakey Investments coincidentally appeared before Justice Chinamora in respect of the very subject matter of the documents that found their way to Advocate Nyamukura.”
In his response to Judge President Zimba Dube dated 27 October, Chinamora denied wrongdoing, emphasising that he has no personal relationship with Blakey. Chinamora also said the personal documents in question were and have always been in his possession.
“I have in my position originals of documents itemised in paragraph 3 of the complaint. Hence, my surprise that those documents would have been in the possession of Blakey’s lawyers in Zimbabwe or South Africa. For avoidance of doubt, I repeat that I have the said documents in my possession, which documents I can provide to the JSC if required. Previously, I kept the documents in my Chambers at the High Court until recently when I took them to my study at home. That’s where they are in a locked cabinet,” Chinamora said.
He further requested information on the instructions on the brief and accompanying documents furnished to Nyamakura, since he had his personal documents.
“I am astonished how documents in my possession would be with Adv Nyamakura. I desire this information from the advocate,” he said.
He also requested the JSC to seek a statement from Blakey’s attorneys in Zimbabwe and South Africa regarding their possession of the documents.
“To the extent that Adv Nyamakura was briefed by Blakey (Pty) Ltd’s attorneys, I also ask the JSC to request these lawyers to provide a copy of the brief containing their instructions and documents they passed on to Adv Nyamakura.
If they sent my documents (which is vehemently denied) they should state their reasons for sending the document and whether they are referred to in the brief/instructions,” he said.
Chinamora also said his judgement in Delta Beverages (Pvt) Ltd is on appeal.
“As I earlier said, that provides the Supreme Court with an opportunity to determine whether any conclusions and decision were arrived at for reasons other than those evident from the judgment,” he said.
Writing to the JSC on 21 December, Mpofu insisted that Advocate Nyamukura had the documents at one time although they were later returned.
“In his response, the Honourable Judge indicates that he has his original documents. Indeed, he has some of them. Those documents were retrieved from Advocate Nyamakura. I attach Nyamakura’s letter to the law Society of Zimbabwe, in which he writes, ‘Blakely recalled the documents including the documents belonging to the honourable judge. I confirm that I had taken photographs of some of the documents and that I have them with me’,” Mpofu wrote.
“The photographs were shared with me at the relevant time. I attach them to this letter.
“The chambers discussion that related to my first letter, led to a member of our set approaching the judge and the advising him that Nyamakura had the judge’s personal documents in his possession that same night, the documents were recalled from Nyamakura. The Honourable Judge has to state whether it is his contention that he does not know about these developments. I have spoken to the member who advised the Honourable Judge about the documents. You might want to hear from him.”
He expressed concern that the judge maintains he was always in possession of the documents, when in fact he was not.
“As it turns out however, in the haste of retrieving the documents, some critical documents were left. I have now placed them in the custody of my lawyers. The documents are as follows: Addendum to Agreement of Sale entered into between the honourable judge and Arosume Property Development (Private) Limited (copy) in April 2020. The addendum records monthly instalments of USD$10 000.00 that are said to be payable to honourable judge; Letterhead for Makore and Company; Certificate of incorporation for Heritage Autocars (Private) Limited; Form No C.R.5 for Heritage Autocars (Private) Limited (presented for filing by Tanyaradzwa Gymney Chinamora); Form No C.R.6 for Heritage Autocars (Private) Limited (presented for filing by Tanyaradzwa Gymney Chinamora.”
Mpofu suggested that the JSC also hear from Nyamakura and the Law Society. Chinamora has other complaints against him. In one case he is accused of releasing armed robbers.
In a letter dated 13 November, a group of concerned citizens wrote to Chief Justice Luke Malaba raising the issue of Chinamora releasing armed robbers in suspicious circumstances.
“We are employees of the JSC and concerned citizens, and will not disclose our names for fear of being victimised by the Honourable Chinamora who is running a parallel bail court at the High Court of Zimbabwe in Harare. The information which we are giving you can be checked in the files,” the letter says.
“Justice Chinamora is working with Brenda who gives him files to grant bail in chambers. He is also reinstating appeals deemed abandoned by the registrar.”
The letter says Chinamora granted bail to Norman Karenga — case B640/21 — and Robert Mhandu — B659/21 — who were facing many charges of armed robbery.
“The cases were joined in the bail court. The accused were charged with many counts of robbery committed with dangerous weapons and at odd hours. The victims were harassed. There is a lot of evidence. The first bail application was dismissed by Judge Pisirayi Kwenda in July 2021. He wrote a judgment, saying that the evidence is a lot and the accused had failed to show that it is in the interests of justice for them to be granted bail,” the letter says.
The other complaint against Chinamora involves a Harare company, Sweatland Enterprises (Pvt) Ltd trading as Genius Locksmith, which levelled a corruption allegation against him.
In a letter dated 3 November titled “Complaint Against High Court Judge Justice Chinamora”, the company says it was exposing the judge’s interference in a case which did not concern him.
“We write to show our displeasure in Honourable Justice Chinamora’s conduct in interfering with one of the cases entertained by the High Court Harare recently,” the letter says.
“In a matter between plaintiff Elisha Gabara Vs Saphire Investments (Pvt) Ltd case No. HC 5593/21 and Sheriff reference SWH 217/21, the Sheriff of the High Court Zimbabwe was engaged to enforce a court order and writ of ejectment and execution against the defendant’s property in Marlborough, Harare.
“On Friday 29 October 2021, in pursuit of writ of execution, the assistant sheriff Mr Tapfuma in the company of our staff, the locksmith Mr J Maonjeka, visited the defendant’s residence for purposes of enforcing of writ of ejection. “Whilst in execution of their duties, one of the defendant’s relatives present on execution requested Mr Tapfuma, the assistant to the Sheriff, to attend to a mobile call from the relative’s mobile phone.
“It so happens the person over the phone identified himself as Justice Chinamora of the High Court of which Mr Tapfuma insisted he cannot entertain him over the phone as he is aware any imposter may impersonate him and interfere with the normal course of justice. Mr Tapfuma had to refer him to Mrs Siwardi at the Sheriff’s office.
“A few minutes later our Mr J Maonjeka received a call from the same judge, Justice Chinamora, using cell number 0719885831. It was exactly 1920 hours. The judge ordered him to offload the attached goods, unlock the secured doors and leave the keys with occupants available there. Our Mr Maonjeka refused to accept the order and referred the Honourable judge to call Mrs Siwardi the head of Sheriff services. Execution was then suspended with the reasons beyond our control.”