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2 Zimbabwe High Court judges facing removal from the bench for unprofessional conduct

by Staff reporter
28 Feb 2023 at 08:32hrs | Views
Two High Court judges are facing removal from the bench for unprofessional conduct, ZimLive revealed.

Justice Martin Makonese of the Bulawayo High Court and Justice Webster Chinamora of the Harare High Court have both been given 10 days to show cause why a tribunal should not be established to investigate their acts of misconduct.

Makonese has reportedly offered to resign instead, while Chinamora is understood to be lobbying officials in the justice ministry to pick a friendly panel in the hope of a favourable ruling.

Within days, President Emmerson Mnangagwa is expected to announce tribunals to investigate complaints against the two judges.

The complaint against Makonese follows an order he issued in a commercial dispute in which he allegedly has a financial interest. He made the order without an application made before him, and without the knowledge of lawyers of the two other parties in the dispute.

The dispute over a coal mine in Hwange pits a company called Philcool Investments, who were the "applicants", and two others called Hwange Coal Gasification and Taiyuan Sanxing who were the "respondents" during the hearing purportedly held on October 12, 2022.

The order, seen by ZimLive, gave the companies things they had not sought – including ordering them to abandon pending court applications, which suppliers to use and structuring payment terms to resolve the dispute.

It has been established that no such hearing took place. Representatives of Philcool Investments reportedly tried to enforce the order and were arrested.

"They were denied bail by a magistrate and appealed to the High Court. Instead of hearing the appeal, the judge cancelled the papers and turned the bail appeal into an application and dealt with it without hearing anyone. He got those people released," a source revealed.

The complaint against Chinamora was filed by lawyer Advocate Thabani Mpofu. A panel set up by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to review the complaint made up of judges Anne-Marie Gowora, Alfas Chitakunye and Custom Kachambwa concluded that Chinamora has a case to answer.

Mpofu was representing Delta Beverages and Schweppes Zimbabwe in a legal dispute with South African company, Blakey Plastics. Justice Chinamora was the judge in the matter in which he ruled in favour of Blakey Plastics which was resisting the cancellation of its contract to supply Delta with plastic materials over five years.

A letter of complaint to the JSC by Mpofu stated that after he filed an appeal at the Supreme Court against Chinamora's judgement, Blakey Plastics approached another lawyer Advocate Taona Nyamakura and asked him for an opinion on the matter which was now before the Supreme Court.

Blakey Plastics proceeded to deliver two large boxes containing documents relating to the legal battle to Nyamakura.

While Nyamakura was going through the documents, some of which related to what was an ongoing arbitration process in South Africa, he came across numerous personal papers belonging to Chinamora.

The papers included a file containing the judge's conditions of service, his original divorce order and file, original vehicle licence for a Land Rover Discovery, a lease agreement, company documents, and building plans for a residential house being constructed in Carrick Creagh, among others.

Nyamukura reported the find to the Law Society of Zimbabwe and also informed Mpofu who in turn reported the matter to the JSC.

In an October 14, 2021, letter to the JSC, Mpofu said that it was "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."

He added: "The arbitration documents were not produced and do not form part of any court record in Zimbabwe. It is highly in conceivable 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."

Chinamora responded to the complaint in a letter to Judge President Zimba Dube dated October 27, 2021. He wrote: "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."

Mpofu again wrote to the JSC, insisting that the judge had – apparently working with Blakey – hurriedly moved to recover the documents from Nyamakura. Unbeknown to him, however, not all his personal documents were returned. Further, Nyamakura had also taken pictures of the documents.

Wrote Mpofu on December 21, 2021: "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.'

"The photographs were shared with me at the relevant time. I attach them to this letter.

"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 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)."

The two judges will be the latest to face a tribunal after Justices Thompson Mabhikwa, Erica Ndewere, Francis Bere and Edith Mushore were all fired for misconduct over the last three years.

Source - ZimLive
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