PROMINENT Harare lawyer Tawanda Zvobgo of Zvobgo Attorneys has been reported to the Law Society of Zimbabwe over his involvement in a case in which Justice Webster Chinamora delivered a judgement before a hearing.
Zvobgo is accused of appearing before Chinamora and writing correspondence in a case where 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, 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.
The complaint against Zvobgo has been 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.
The same company also lodged a complaint against Justice Chinamora with Judge President Mary Zimba-Dube.
In the latest complaint against Zvobgo, Balwearie Holdings (Pvt) Limited said it has suffered prejudice due to his corrupt conduct.
The company said there are four related cases that were before Justice Chinamhora, 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.
Judgment in the joinder case number HC5399/20 and HCB414/21 is still being reserved. On 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.
“This is so because Rule 9 of the High Court Rules, 2021, provides for renunciation of agency and assumption of agency as a way of regulating the representation of parties such that the court and everyone concerned know which legal practitioner they are dealing with at every stage of the case.
“The position that a legal practitioner has no right of audience when he does not file an assumption of agency was also anchored by the Supreme Court in Ilasha Mining (Pvt) Ltd v Yatakala Trading (Pvt) Ltd t/a Viking Hardware Distributors SC 61/ 18,” reads part of the letter of complaint.
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.
“We silently questioned how the lawyer from Zvobgo Attorneys was claiming to be representing the other party yet Zvobgo Attorneys did not file any assumption of agency on the 4 cases and Titan Law Chambers who were initially representing that party had not filed any renunciation of agency to say that they were no longer representing that party.
“More over we silently questioned how the Judge’s clerk came to invite a law firm which did not file any assumption of agency or at least represent any of the parties at any stage of the case. How they got to know that Zvobgo Attorneys was now representing the other party is still a mystery,” wrote Balwearie Holdings (Pvt) Limited, in the letter to the Law Society of Zimbabwe.
The company further revealed that when its legal practitioners entered into judge’s chambers, they were worried that the judge delivered judgment in case number HC 3847/20 which was neither heard nor argued.
“He did so knowing very well: – a. That the case was not heard or argued. b. That there is a party Sabre Services (Pvt) Ltd which wanted to be joined in that case and judgment on whether it will be joined or not is still being reserved by the same judge. c. That we have a pending application for leave to file a supplementary affidavit which should be heard before HC 3847/20 can be heard,” complained the aggrieved company, adding: “What the above meant is that the judge regarded our case as ‘case ya Mr Zvobgo’ when Mr Zvobgo did not represent any of the parties or at least file any assumption of agency. “
When we entered the judge’s chambers, he admitted that he had delivered judgment on a case which was not heard or argued.
He claimed that this was an error on his part.
“He suggested that they would simply destroy the printed judgment and delete it from the system as a way of correcting his error. We did not agree with his suggestion, preferring that he should on his own initiative simply issue another judgment rescinding his ‘erroneous one’ as provided for in Rule 29 of the High Court Rules, 2021.”
The company 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 fact that Mr. Zvobgo’s firm was invited to the handing down of judgment in the absence of anything on record to suggest that they were representing any of the parties; the fact that the case was referred to as ‘case yaMr Zvobgo’ when Mr Zvobgo did not represent any of the parties in that case or file any assumption of agency coupled with the fact that Mr Zvobgo wrote a letter defending the judge despite the fact that he was not present on any appearance of the cases caused us to be sure that the Judge and Mr Zvobgo were in this scandal together,” reads another part of the letter of complaint.
The company also accused Zvobgo of trying to reconstruct it and Guta’s grievance against the judge.
The firm further says Zvobgo 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 Law Society of Zimbabwe 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.
“As a result of the above misconduct and corrupt activities by Mr Zvobgo, we have suffered great prejudice. We therefore request your good office to investigate Mr Tawanda Zvobgo’s conduct,” concludes the letter of complaint.
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.
The JSC recommended that President Emmerson Mnangagwa set up tribunals to investigate the suitability of Chinamora and former Bulawayo High Court judge Martin Makonese to hold office.