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Panel of judges clears Justice Bere of wrongdoing

by Staff reporter
29 Jan 2019 at 23:22hrs | Views
A PANEL of four judges appointed by Chief Justice Luke Malaba has cleared Supreme Court judge Justice Francis Bere of ethical misconduct following allegations levelled against him by Meikles executive chairman Mr John Moxon.

Justice Bere, who was recently elevated to the Supreme Court, was under investigation over allegations of conflict of interest in a ruling he made in a consultancy dispute between Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed Meikles Limited and Widefree Investments involving more than $2 million.

Widefree is linked to industrialist Mr Joseph Kanyekanye, a long standing client of Bere Brothers, a law firm founded by the judge.

Chief Justice Malaba had ordered investigations into alleged violation of judicial ethical conduct by Justice Bere after Mr Moxon filed a complaint with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) that Justice Bere was conflicted in giving a ruling against Meikles under Case Number SC 503 /18.

Meikles, which entered into a consultancy agreement with Widefree Investments trading as Core Solutions in December 2013, lost the case both at the High Court and Supreme Court. The obligation of the agreement was that Core Solutions would assist Meikles in recovering funds owed by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

In its findings, the four-member Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee chaired by Constitutional and Supreme Court judge Justice Rita Makarau, ruled that there was no evidence suggesting that Justice Bere was aware of the client-legal practitioner relationship between the respondent and Bere Brothers.

According to a letter dated January 23, 2019 and signed by Chief Justice Malaba, the committee recommended to the JSC boss that the conduct of Justice Bere in the case in question was not unethical.

Chief Justice Malaba said the committee, whose other members were Labour Court judge Justice Lawrence Murasi and Constitutional and Supreme Court judges Justices Tendai Uchena and Justice Lavender Makoni, also noted that Justice Bere severed ties with the law firm 17 years ago.

"The Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee conducted investigations into the question whether the Honourable judge's conduct in case number SC50/18 raised issues of ethical conduct.

"After investigations, the committee made the following findings:

(a) there is no evidence that the Honourable Judge was aware of the client-legal practitioner relationship between the respondent and Bere Brothers

(b) there is no evidence that the Honourable Judge has kept himself abreast of the goings on at Bere Brothers, having severed ties with the law firm in 2002.

(d) in the application for condonation, the respondent was not represented by Bere Brothers but by a different law firm

(e) the complainant, if he was aware of the relationship between the respondent and Bere Brothers at the time the application was heard, (he) did not bring this to the attention of the Honourable Judge and seek his recusal from determining the matter," read part of the letter.

Chief Justice Malaba acknowledged receipt of the complaint dated September 20, 2018 against Justice Bere and subsequently ordered the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee to launch a probe.

In a letter written to Chief Justice Malaba in September last year, Mr Moxon said he had information of Mr Kanyekanye's links with Justice Bere.

"Information, however, has come to my attention that gives rise to the suspicion that conditions under which our Supreme Court case was heard do not meet the very high standards of impartiality and integrity that are associated with that court," he said.

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