Harare regional magistrate Vongai Guriro Muchuchuti has been sued for US$170 000 for allegedly making a false claim against a lawyer during court proceedings.
Muchuchuti on February 14 accused Millicent Moyo of Mutumbwa, Mugabe and Partners of lying that Harare businessman Georgios Katsimberis’ lawyer Tinomudaishe Chinyoka had travelled to South Africa for treatment while he was in Harare.
Moyo was standing in for Chinyoka, who was not feeling well, and had made an application to postpone Katsimberis’ trial.
Muchuchuti was insisting on proceeding with the case without Chinyoka, who was eventually forced to rush to court in his condition before he could travel for treatment in the neighbouring country.
The magistrate claimed Moyo had lied to the court and labelled her unprofessional.
In a letter of demand from her lawyers dated May 16, Moyo said a court transcript of proceedings on the day in question showed that she never made the claims Muchuchuti referred to.
She said the claims were repeated by several newspapers and she has since been ordered by the Law Society of Zimbabwe to respond to the magistrate’s allegations.
“On the 14th of February whilst presiding in the trial of the matter of the State Vs Georgios Katsimberis CRB R473/20 in the courtroom at the Harare magistrate’s court in the presence of the public, and the press, you stated that Miss Moyo had lied to the court that Advocate Tinomuda Chinyoka had travelled to South Africa the previous day when he was not,” the lawyers wrote.
- Biti reported to Law Society
- Govt shuts door on foreign lawyers
- Lawyers flag prosecutors as the most corrupt
- Mtetwa issues summons for former clerk
“That statement was false. In fact, Miss Moyo never said what you ascribed to her.”
Warara added: “You went on to reprimand her for lying in the circumstances under which you knew or ought to have known that she had not lied as you had before you in the court record a letter advising that Advocate Chinyoka was scheduled to travel for medical treatment in South Africa on the same day.”
The lawyers said the magistrate’s statements reverberated beyond the courtroom and caused untold damage not only to the lawyer’s professional reputation, but also to her employer, Mutumwa, Mugabe and Partners.
“Your statements received even more extensive coverage in WhatsApp groups, including and particularly lawyers’ groups,” the letter said.
“The statements meant that our client is a liar and a dishonest person unworthy of being a lawyer as she had betrayed her oath as an officer of the court.”
Moyo wanted Muchuchuti to apologise and pay the defamation claim within five days.
“It goes without saying that a grievous injury has been inflicted on Miss Moyo’s reputation and professional standing,” the lawyers added.
“On the 6th of March, the Law Society of Zimbabwe wrote to her observing that the newspaper reports pointed to her having committed an act of misconduct and sought her explanation.
“Chats on WhatsApp groups indicate that Miss Moyo has become a laughing stock and subject of derision within and outside the legal profession.
“It is our instructions to demand as we hereby do that within five days of the date of this letter, you do the following: Publish an apology to our client and her firm Mutumbwa Mugabe and Partners.
“Pay Miss Moyo US$170,000.00 defamation damages failing which we have firm instructions to issue summons against you at your cost without further ado.”
The letter has been copied to the Judicial Services Commission, chief magistrate, National Prosecution Authority, Law Society of Zimbabwe, Ministry of Justice, newspapers and online publications that carried the story.