Judge orders lawyers’ probe

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HIGH Court judge Justice Happious Zhou has ordered that the Law Society of Zimbabwe investigates Harare lawyer and political activist Jacob Mafume after an embarrassing incident in which he is accused as having misrepresented facts in court.
BY STAFF REPORTER

Mafume was representing one Martin Mufanebadza in a property dispute with the Tinei Amos Family Trust.

The People’s Democratic Party spokesperson stands accused of having misrepresented to the court by bringing a “wrong person” before Justice Zhou.

“The costs of this matter shall be paid on the attorney-client scale by the defendant and his legal practitioner Mr Jacob Mafume of Mafume Law Chambers jointly and severally, the one paying the other to be absolved.

“The Registrar of this Court is directed to place a copy of this order together with the reasons thereof before the Council of the Law Society of Zimbabwe for an inquiry to be undertaken into the conduct of Jacob Mafume,” Justice Zhou said in his judgment.

According to the judge’s order the civil matter had been set for January 29, 2018 and just before commencement, Mafume requested that the matter be placed at the end of the roll for the week as there were issues which Mufanebadza intended to attend to in relation to his pleadings.

The trial was postponed but, before it resumed on January 30, Mafume made another application for postponement on the grounds that his client intended to make an application to amend his pleadings by joining the City of Harare as a defendant in the claim in reconvention.

Justice Zhou dismissed the application, forcing Mafume to request for a brief adjournment to consult his client and “the indulgence was granted”.

“Upon resumption, Mafume advised the court that he was asking to be excused from representing the defendant as the defendant had expressed doubts about his capacity to represent him because he was not prepared for the trial,” court papers show, adding Mafume had also indicated that he was not prepared for trial.

The court excused Mafume from the proceedings and ordered the trial to proceed.

“The trial accordingly commenced with the plaintiff leading its first and only witness, Amos Tinei Harrison. He completed giving his evidence in chief prior to the lunch adjournment. At that time the court advised the supposed defendant that after the lunch adjournment he would be entitled to cross-examine the witness. The court also explained what cross-examination entailed.”

Following the lunch adjournment, “the supposed defendant, the gentlemen who represented himself as the defendant and who had been presented to the court as such by Mafume”, advised the court that he had fallen ill. Justice Zhou said he was sure the defendant was “feigning illness”, but he indulged him and directed that he seeks medical assistance.

But the “fraud” brought with him an unsigned paper indicating that indeed his blood pressure had shot up. Justice Zhou rejected it and the hearing commenced, then the revelation.

“When the ‘defendant’ was called upon to take the oath for the purposes of giving evidence in support of his case, he stated his name as Francis Masotsha.

“The man before the court was therefore not the defendant (Mufanebadza). The court had been misled into believing that the defendant was in attendance when, in fact, the man in attendance was (one) Francis Masotsha who claimed to have come only as a witness. He had no evidence of authority to represent the defendant. In fact, for two days he pretended to be the defendant himself until he was called upon to testify,” Zhou said.

He added: “Mafume’s conduct is clearly dishonourable in that when he applied for postponement of the matter he was aware that his client was in default, but deliberately misled the court into believing that Francis Masotsha was the defendant.”