Convicted lawyer aspires to be a High Court judge

16 May, 2024 - 09:05 0 Views
Convicted lawyer aspires to be a High Court judge Chief Justice Luke Malaba

The Sunday News

Harare Bureau 

A CONVICTED lawyer awaiting sentence for misconduct is aspiring to be a High Court judge.

Ms Burukai Muchadzireva, who is based in Chinhoyi, was among three candidates vying for the single post of judge of the Administrative Court, who were interviewed by a panel led by Chief Justice Luke Malaba in Harare yesterday.

She had a torrid time explaining why she put herself forward for appointment to the esteemed office of a judge, when she has a pending case that could dent her suitability to be appointed to the bench.

Trouble for Ms Muchadzireva started when Chief Justice Malaba put standard questions to the lawyer and handed her over to the commissioners for questioning on her suitability.

In no time, Deputy Chief Justice Elizabeth Gwaunza opened the skeletons in the lawyer’s cupboard.

She quizzed her on the information received from the Law Society of Zimbabwe that she had been convicted of misconduct and was awaiting sentence.

The commission then sought an explanation. Ms Muchadzireva explained that she represented a client who was involved in an accident in which she lost her leg.

“She is the one who gave me the mandate to represent her and we made her sign the necessary documents that are made available,” she said.

Ms Muchadzireva said at some stage, the client’s two sisters came requesting settlement documents, which was a break-down of what to claim or settle between the client and the individual who knocked down their sister.

The charge against her involved failure to disclose information and receiving legal fees for work she had not done.

Ms Muchadzireva disputed that the complainants in the case were her clients.

“My client has never, up to this day, raised a complaint against me or even supported the complaint by her sisters,” she said.

However, Justice Gwaunza reminded Ms Muchadzireva to stick to the real issue that was put before the commission, the allegation in a letter purportedly written by the two sisters that they paid her US$850 for services she was to render in respect of their sister.

In her response, Ms Muchadzireva said the complainants never paid her anything, but her client did, adding that she had issues with the lawyers regulating the board.

“My defence remains and will remain that they were never my clients.  I am being penalised for doing the right thing and it is unfair.”

Commissioner Virginia Mabiza also took Ms Muchadzireva to task over the matter. She asked her what she had done about the conviction. 

“I have approached the society and they have since sent me two emails requesting that I tender further information and evidence regarding the suit. 

“Once completed, I intend to bring the matter for review because I feel I am being  convicted for doing the right thing,” she said. 

Ms Mabiza asked the lawyer if she was aware of the likely consequences to her practice, if sentenced.

“It impacts on me and my integrity. I have built a brand for the past 14 years and to be destroyed over an issue raised by parties that are not my clients is not fair,” she replied.

“Suppose your integrity is tainted, does that extend to the integrity of the judge, assuming you become one?” asked Ms Mabiza.

In response, Ms Muchadzireva said: “It puts me in an unfair position given the fact that I am being penalised for doing the right thing.” 

Commissioner Nokuthula Moyo followed up with a sucker punch.

“What is the propriety of putting yourself forward for the bench when there is a conviction against you which has not yet been set aside?”

But Ms Muchadzireva insisted that the conviction was void and could not make her withdraw from the race.

Two other candidates, Chinhoyi town clerk Mr Kaitano Sande and Zimbabwe National Water Authority legal officer Mr Tawanda Katewe put up sterling performances.

Section 180 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe provides guidelines on the appointment of judges.

After the interviews, the JSC will decide on a list of “qualified persons as nominees” for the two posts, and send the list to the President.

Having received the JSC’s list of nominees, the President must then, unless he considers that no-one on the list is suitable for appointment to the Supreme Court, make the two appointments from that list.

If the President considers that no-one on the list is suitable, he must call on the JSC to produce a second list and must make the appointment from that second list, according to section 180 (5) of the Constitution.

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