Businessman seeks State lawyer's recusal

HARARE - Mutare businessman Tendai Blessing Mangwiro, who successfully applied for Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo’s 90-day jailing, has written a letter demanding that his former lawyer recuse himself as the minister’s legal representative in the ongoing convoluted dispute.

The Attorney-General (AG)’s office has engaged the services of advocate Lewis Uriri in its bid to purge Chombo’s contempt of court rap, which led to the 90-day prison term.

Chombo was found guilty and sentenced to a jail term after he failed to facilitate the release of $78 900 unlawfully seized from Mangwiro following his arrest on wrongful theft charges in 2008. The police failed to return the businessman’s money following his acquittal in 2012.

Mangwiro argued in a letter he wrote to the AG’s office last Thursday that the lawyer cannot represent the minister in the case, considering that he once represented him during his bail hearing.

“Considering that you once represented me for bail purposes . . . under the instructions of my erstwhile lawyers Kantor and Immerman Legal Practitioners and in particular . . . Bernard Chidziwa in the criminal case, which is the cause of action . . . it was during that time that you had the privilege to be seized with privileged information.

“Although advocates do not face ‘conflicts of interest’, in this scenario, considering that I was briefing or instructing  . . . Chidziwa and yourself in my criminal case . . . which is the cause of action in case HC 4766/13, . . . will it be in the interest of justice for you to represent the State in any civil or criminal case against me, which is associated or linked to the criminal case . . . , considering your direct involvement on my behalf in the same criminal case?” Mangwiro queried.

This also comes after Mangwiro wrote a letter to the Finance ministry demanding that his money be released within 72 hours, failure of which he said he will approach the courts for further assistance.

Mangwiro also separately won another High Court order compelling the minister to further release $1,5 million which was also forcibly taken from him by police at the time of the businessman’s arrest.

Chombo has been fighting to stay out of prison since the imposition of the 90-day prison term. He has since filed a Supreme Court appeal challenging the court ruling and a demand that the matter be sent back to the presiding judge Amy Tsanga or the judge president to determine if he is still in contempt.

Tsanga has since made a judgment, stating that no one is above the law.

“Central to the rule of law is that no person is above the law. The rule of law binds government and all officials to its precepts and also preserves the quality and dignity of all persons,” Tsanga said.

She said the courts, in terms of the Constitution, are enjoined to apply the law without fear or favour.

“Respect for the rule of law would be ferociously eroded if courts were to permit a government official to send a message to a litigant who has successfully sued, that the State does not value court orders,” she said.

Mangwiro has also challenged the State Liabilities Act after failing to find recourse and claims Chombo and the police are abusing the Act to avoid complying with court orders.

High Court judge Edith Mushore reserved ruling in the matter on Monday last week.

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