PROMINENT lawyer Tawanda Zvobgo has written to the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LCZ) absolving himself of any wrongdoing, after his involvement in a case in which former High Court judge Webster Chinamora delivered a judgement without conducting a hearing.
Zvobgo is accused of appearing before Chinamora and writing correspondence in a case in which he had no right of audience, seeking to confirm matters he was not privy to since he was never available in any appearance of the case, seeking to impress as if the matter in question was heard, yet it was not.
He is also accused of communicating with Chinamora on personal cellphones during the time the judge was dealing with the case and trying to recruit other lawyers to defend Chinamora.
Chinamora resigned from the bench ahead of an inquiry into his suitability to hold office following the compilation of a damning dossier by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) alleging a litany of transgressions in the course of his duties.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa appointed the tribunal on the recommendation of the JSC which found that Justice Chinamora could have engaged in gross misconduct, interfered in the course of justice and presided over matters in which he had conflict of interest.
His resignation renders the tribunal abortive as he is no longer a judge.
Justice Chinamora submitted his letter of resignation to the President through the JSC on Thursday.
The complaint against Zvobgo was lodged by the aggrieved party, a company called Balwearie Holdings (Pvt) Limited, through its managing director Believe Guta in a letter dated 30 October 2023.
Guta, who has been arrested and denied bail, has also lodged a complaint against Justice Chinamora with Judge President Mary Zimba-Dube, amid indications that investigations are underway.
In a letter dated November 9 to the LCZ, Zvobgo Attorneys, Zvobgo’s law firm, has accused Guta of smearing his name, and attempting to defraud another company with a similar name, Balwearie Holdings (Pvt) Ltd 1977.
“The report which the Law Society has been seized with concerns an exceedingly complex matter, which, as shall be demonstrated in this reply is characterised by deceitfulness and dishonesty of the worst kind amongst many other forms of moral obliquity, which have been weaponized in an unprecedented manner with the aim of perpetrating a fraud of astronomical proportions,” reads the letter.
“The complaint that has been made against Mr. Zvobgo is no more than a diversion tactic and a smokescreen. We intend, through this reply, to shed light on the worrisome [matters] that have transpired over the course of the last three years, which have not only seen our courts of law being used as conduits in the implementation of unimaginable corruption, but which have also seen some legal practitioners out rightly abusing the judicial system which they swore to serve and uphold.”
Zvobgo alleged that Guta has been using deceitful means to acquire property, which has seen him being arrested on several accounts. He was arrest by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) a fortnight ago.
“The starting point, which we shall repeatedly revert to, is that Mr. Believe Guta is a convicted criminal. This is not an insult, but a statement of fact,” reads the letter.
“He was tried and convicted of fraud on 14 February 2017 as appears from the confirmation of his previous conviction attached. He was sentenced to a three-year custodial sentence for his commission of the crime of fraud as defined in section 136 of the Criminal Law (Codification & Reform) Act. One would have thought that his incarceration would have disabused his mind of its criminal disposition, but it seems to have actually emboldened him and spurred him to perfect his theftous craft. He walked out of prison a hardened criminal.”
Zvobgo said Guta has been trying to cover his tracks in several cases of suspected fraud, which he has been previously arrested for.
He says Guta had been initially jailed after attempts to fraudulently acquire immovable property owned by one Francisco Jordan, who is now deceased.
“In 2014, Mr. Guta instituted legal proceedings in the Harare High Court under HC8942/14, claiming to have had an agreement of sale with someone called Francisco Jordan, in terms of which that person had purportedly sold his immovable property to Mr. Believe Guta. Mr. Believe Guta managed to secure a default judgement directing that the immovable property of Francesco Jordan be transferred to him,” Zvobgo said.
“As it later turned out, Francesco Jordan was misrepresenting facts to the court in an effort to appropriate a property that did not belong to him. Mr. Guta’s fraud was discovered by Francesco Jordan’s family before the immovable property was transferred into Mr. Guta’s name. It was that act of fraud which landed Mr. Guta into prison.”
Zvobgo accused Guta of attempting to prevent him from exposing the criminal mastermind, and has accused him of trying to steal another immovable property, which led to his arrest by the Zacc.
“This time, he has set his sights on the immovable property known as certain piece of land situate in the District of Hartley, called Remainder of Westhey of Sabonabona Estate measuring 97.0653 Hectares held under deed of Transfer No. 4110/92 dated 8th June 1992. The hectarage stated in the title deeds shows just how large the piece of land is. The title deed for this immovable property is registered in the name of the company called Balwearie Holdings (Private) Limited,” reads the letter.
“Now, this is where the matter starts to get complicated. There exist two companies that are both Balwearie Holdings and as we will demonstrate, this is no isolated coincidence, but is part of a well-choreographed ploy driven by Mr. Believe Guta to steal the immovable property. The first Balwearie Holdings was registered in the office of the Registrar of Companies on 14th February1977 under the company registration number 45/77,” he said.
“To avoid confusion, we shall refer to the first company Balwearie 1977. The proprietor in Balwearie was the late Louis Martinus Heyns. He is survived by his wife, Mrs. Lorraine E.A. Heyns and their two adult sons Mr. Kurt Heyns and Mr. Zane Heyns. Balwearie 1977 and the immovable property, which was purchased and registered in 1992, effectively belong to the Heyns family.”
Zvobgo said while the second Balwearie Holdings (Pvt) Ltd was registered four decades before Balwearie 2020 was incorporated, there was no doubt that Balwearie 1977 is the legitimate owner of the immoveable property. He accused Guta of creating another company of the same name, which he says is to create the false impression that the property in question actually belongs to Balwearie 2020.
“In other words, Mr. Believe Guta, having decided that he was going to steal the immovable property that belonged to Balwearie 1977, created a company with a name identical to it, being Balwearie 2020, and made himself director and shareholder in that company so as to try and gain effective control over the immovable property,” he says.
Guta’s company, Balwearie (Pvt) Limited had submitted to the LCZ that it has suffered prejudice due to Zvobgo’s corrupt conduct. The company said there are four related cases that were before Justice Chinamora, namely case numbers HC 3847/20; HC 5399/20; HC 5431/20 and HCB 414/21.
In June 2021, the judge heard case number HC5399/20 and HCB 414/2, and reserved judgement. He directed that case number HC 5431/20 and C3847/20 would be heard after delivering judgment of the application for joinder case number HC 5399/20 and HCB 414/21.
Judgement in the joinder case number HC5399/20 and HCB414/21 is still being reserved. In all these four cases, Zvobgo and his firm “Zvobgo Attorneys” did not represent any of the parties and did not file an assumption of agency to say that they are representing any of the parties in the four cases.
According to Balwearie Holdings (Pvt) Limited, by operation of law Zvobgo and his firm had no right of audience before the judge in the four cases.
The aggrieved company also said that on the 17th of October 2023 one of its legal practitioners Walter Bherebende received a call from Justice Chinamora’s clerk inviting him to come and note judgment which was to be handed down by the judge in chambers.
The company further revealed that it went to the High Court where its legal practitioners met another lawyer from Zvobgo Attorneys who claimed to represent the other party.
It said that when its legal practitioners entered the judge’s chambers, they were worried that the judge delivered judgement in case number HC 3847/20 which was neither heard nor argued.
Balwearie Holdings 2020 further stated that it learnt that the judge (Chinamora) was conniving with Zvobgo to find ways of making sure that the “bogus judgement” stood.
The company also accused Zvobgo of trying to reconstruct the case and Guta’s grievance against the judge, and says he presented that its grievance was not that the judge delivered judgement on a matter which was not heard, but that the judge did not simultaneously hand down judgment in respect of the case under HC 5399/20 and HCB 414/21.
The aggrieved firm further submitted to the LCZ that Zvobgo had no right of presenting any fact on its behalf because it did not instruct him to present anything on its behalf.
Secondly, the company says Zvobgo presented a wrong grievance on its behalf instead of pointing out that its grievance was that the judge delivered judgment on a case which was not heard.
The firm says it did not know where Zvobgo got the grievance which he presented on its behalf from. Zvobgo is again accused of seeking to cause the preparation of a forged transcript so as to defend the judge.
Justice Chinamora has a tainted record after Advocate Thabani Mpofu filed a complaint against him in February after another attorney, Advocate Taona Nyamakura, lodged a complaint against the judge 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.
A panel set up by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to review the complaint comprising judges Anne-Marie Gowora, Alfas Chitakunye and Custom Kachambwa concluded that Chinamora had a case to answer.
Chinamora was already facing a series of accusations ranging from conflict of interest, judicial misconduct, bribery to different forms of corruption.