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Judge faces fresh corruption charges amid investigations

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Judge faces fresh corruption charges amid investigations

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IT never rains but pours for controversial Zimbabwean High Court Justice Webster Chinamora (pictured).

The judge is in deep trouble once again, this time facing a series of new accusations ranging from conflict of interest, judicial misconduct, bribery to different forms of corruption.

OWEN GAGARE

The fresh allegations come at a time when he is in the eye of a storm after he was reported to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) for judicial misconduct over a corporate dispute and arbitration processes.

This is the third or so complaint, within a few months, against Chinamora, including his recusal from a case allocated to him.

Recently, on 21 October, Chinamora had to recuse himself in the Kika v Malaba & Ors HC 2513/21 contempt of court proceedings.  

The allegations against Chinamora are growing and serious.

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.

“After three months, in October later Justice Chinamora granted the same accused persons bail based on changed circumstances despite spirited and strong opposition by prosecutor Mr (Albert) Masamha who said in court the trial had started. Judge Chinamora overturned the earlier judgment by Justice Kwenda, but did not write reasons for allowing the appeal.

“Judge Chinamora granted robbers bail on 12 July 2021 after keeping the court file for eight months, but he is not the bail judge. They committed robbery using a pistol and other weapons. He did not give any reasons for providing bail, although the appeal was opposed by the prosecutor.”

The other complaint against Chinamora involves a Harare company, Sweatland Enterprises (Pvt) Ltd trading as Genius Locksmith, which levelled a corruption complaint 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 0719 885831. 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.”

In another letter dated 3 November, 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.

Advocate Thabani Mpofu also reported Chinamora to the JSC over that.

The corporate dispute was heard by Chinamhora who ruled in favour of Blakely.

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. This raised alarm and he reported the matter to his senior, Mpofu, who, in turn, reported the matter to the JSC. Nyamakura reported the issue to the LSZ. The matter is currently under investigation. There are also several other complaints — including one about bribery — against Chinamora.

In an internal JSC memo dated 28 October, it emerges Chinamora is also facing  allegations of bribery. Prior to that in August and September there had been other complaints as well.

Chinamora, however, denies any wrongdoing. 

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