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Prominent Mutare lawyer Chibaya’s unprofessional conduct investigation builds up

Law Society of Zimbabwe executive secretary Edward Mapara.

“As LSZ we have a defined process that we follow. We are currently reviewing the process because we currently believe the system is too elaborate and lengthy. We cannot operate outside the legislation unfortunately, which is why we are reviewing it and make sure it improves the process. We have proposed our amendments to the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs,” said Mapara.

Ngoni Dapira

THE Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) is closing the net on its investigations of prominent Mutare based criminal lawyer Cosmas Chibaya of Chibaya and Partners Legal Practitioners over malpractice allegations.

Chibaya is being investigated by the LSZ since August 2022, after a complaint was filed against him for unethical or criminal conduct in his professional execution of a residential stand deal in the high-density suburb of Chikanga in Mutare.

He is being investigated together with another Mutare based lawyer, Medusa Simango of Mupindu Legal Practitioners, who is being accused of not executing her professional duties honestly and diligently, as a collaborator in the matter.

The complainant Lackmore Chikove wrote a letter of complaint to the LSZ on August 1, 2022, seeking recourse, after being aggrieved by the conduct of Chibaya and Simango. Chibaya is accused of having willfully sold a property in Chikanga to Chikove, which he knew had ownership disputes. Chibaya in his defence response to the LSZ denied ever selling a stand to Chikove. These claims are regardless of there being circumstantial evidence against him to prove otherwise, which this publication is in possession of.

The LSZ executive secretary Edward Mapara confirmed that recommendations will be laid down separately soon for the two lawyers probed. The LSZ is an association mandated with registering lawyers and regulating how lawyers and law firms operate in Zimbabwe.

“The matter was differed because there was information that was not disaggregated concerning the two lawyers under probe. By end of May this case should be complete,” said Mapara.

Chikove claims that in April 2021 he approached Chibaya inquiring about a residential stand 1521 in Chikanga Phase One. Chibaya told him that the stand was up for sale and he was in possession of the original title deeds. Chibaya told him the stand which measures 312 square metres was being sold US$13 000. Mr Chikove who was in the presence of his brother Lovemore Chikove and a friend Romeo Charles Tembo advised Chibaya that he had US$9000 cash at hand and proposed to offset the balance on agreed payment plan terms.

He was taken to view the stand. On the same day Chikove says Chibaya called Godfrey Kamandiapa and another gentlemen called Masiye whom he introduced as the owners of the stand. He says Chibaya told him he had represented Kamandiapa in the stand dispute concerning the residential stand in question which was owned by Masiye, but assured him that the matter was now resolved.

After agreeing on the deal and making the US$9000 payment to Chibaya, Chikove was referred to Simango whom he introduced as a colleague that would do the agreement of sale on his behalf. Chikove said he also paid US$250 to Chibaya for the agreement of sale and was instructed to also pay US$50 to Simango. Chikove said an agreement of sale was then crafted by Simango. Chikove says he later paid the US$4000 balance in three months as had been agreed in the agreement of sale. He was now paying the installments to Mupindu Legal Practitioners, who had been left as the caretaker in the deal.

In January 2022, Simango is said to have prepared the transfer papers and Chikove started building his house after being given assurance by Simango that everything was in order. However, in February 2022 he was surprised to see Joseph Ngorima come to the stand, claiming it was his stand. By that time the construction of his four bed-roomed house at the stand had reached window level.

Chikove says Chibaya first denied that the documents produced by Ngorima were fake, but later agreed that the title deed produced by Ngorima was genuine. Ngorima had pursued getting another title deed through the Registrar of Deeds Office in Harare after winning his case over the property, a case which Chibaya knew about, but had hidden the circumstantial details to Chikove because he was still in possession of the original title deed of the stand. Little did he know Ngorima had skimmed a counter plan to secure his property after winning his High Court appeal on the double sale of that property. Chikove says Chibaya nonetheless promised to settle the matter amicably and compensate him.

“However, the promises by Chibaya and Simango to either secure another stand or reimburse me the full cost of the prejudice, $13 000 for the stand and $14 700 used for construction and other expenses, were never met, which is why I opened a case with the Law Society of Zimbabwe,” said Chikove, in an interview with Easterntimeszim.

Chikove said he never expected to get duped by lawyers. “I do not know what this world is coming to. I never expected being duped by lawyers. I had heard of double sales but I thought it was the sellers that connived, not lawyers actually being the masterminds to fraud. Justice has to be served,” explained Chikove.

Cases of errant lawyers have been on the increase in Zimbabwe. Mapara said the Chikove vs Chibaya case is now before the Council for final deliberations. “This is an internal process. By internal I mean it has not yet gone to the Tribunal (Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal), which is our highest decision making body for serious cases. The matter was first investigated by the Disciplinary and Ethics Committee (DEC) and now it is before the Council.”

Adding, “The Council will determine whether the lawyers are found guilty or not? If the matter is deemed serious to the extent that the Council feels it has no jurisdiction to impose certain penalties sufficient to meet the justice of the case, it will refer the matter to the Tribunal, but if t feels it is within the jurisdiction of its penalties, it will convict and ask the members to mitigate. Or the Council may also decide that there is no substance to the complaint. So, this is where we are on the Chikove versus Chibaya case,” explained the LSZ executive secretary.

In his defence response to the LSZ, through his lawyer from Henning Lock Legal Practitioners, Notaries and Conveyancers dated 17 March 2023, Chibaya dismissed all the allegations against him as lies and erred.

“Firstly, I state that the complainant, Mr Lackmore Chikove, has never been a client to Chibaya and Partners and he never consulted Messers Chibaya and Partners whatsoever. I state that Mr Lackmore Chikove did not make any payment whatsoever to Chibaya and Partners as a client,” read the response by Chibaya, which this publication is in possession of.

He vehemently said he was never paid any fees for drafting an agreement of sale with Chikove and never refunded any money as alluded.

However, ironically Chikove says last year irregardless of the ongoing investigations by the LSZ, Chibaya through an out of court intervention by some local lawyers (names withheld), paid US$13 000 reimbursement to him for the stand.

“He might have denied everything to the Law Society of Zimbabwe in his defence response, but he paid me my $13 000 for the stand in installments which he completed in November last year. What is left now is the US$14 700 reimbursement that I spent on construction up to window level and other minor expenses relating to this matter. Chibaya is unyielding to pay this,” said Chikove who produced the receipts of the payment to this reporter.

“The money was paid in front of four lawyers from different law firms in Mutare that were intermediators on the matter. All that I want is my full reimbursement so that I can move on with my life. I have already lost out because I would have been a property owner by now if he had not scammed me,” said Chikove.

Mapara admitted that the rise in cases involving errant lawyers is now worrisome. He said the LSZ has started the process of reviewing disciplinary procedures in order to swiftly deal with complaints brought by ordinary people against errant lawyers. He added that the LSZ remains steadfast in pursuit of its strategic objective of effective regulation of the profession in the public interest and to reduce the backlog of cases.

“As LSZ we have a defined process that we follow. We are currently reviewing the process because we currently believe the system is too elaborate and lengthy. We cannot operate outside the legislation unfortunately, which is why we are reviewing it and make sure it improves the process. We have proposed our amendments to the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs,” said Mapara.


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