By Robert Tapfumaneyi
A LEGAL practitioners’ disciplinary tribunal set recently by the Law Zimbabwe Society (LSZ) on seven cases involving Charles Chinyama for misconduct has found him guilty on six of the charges.
The charges include failure to remunerate his professional assistant without just cause, failure to account to client (two counts), failing to properly perform a client’s mandate and taking advantage of the client, failure to issue receipts, and account for funds held in trust, and placing himself in a position of conflict with client’s interests.
He was also accused of failing to account for funds held in trust, and account for debts recovered on client’s behalf; and raising a false bill for legal fees and forging an acknowledgment of debt by client in support of legal action against such client for recover of fees.
The first complainant was Prosper Sidhuli, employed by Chinyama and Partners as a professional assistant on 15 September 2014. The verbal agreement entailed a salary of US$700 per month.
However, a written contract was never availed despite being promised. For the month of September 2014, he was paid US$600. No salaries were paid for October, November and December 2014.
The second complainant was Walter Madziro in divorce proceedings, and on 16 November 2015 at around 22:30 hours, the respondent was spotted by the complainant driving Daisy Chavhundura’s motor vehicle, with Daisy Chavhundura in the passenger seat. Chavhundura was Madziro’s wife.
Upon being confronted by the complainant the respondent sped off in his client’s motor vehicle.
The complainant pursued the respondent, and this culminated in a collision between the vehicle driven by the complainant and that driven by the respondent.
The third complaint was filed by Julius Gorerokufa based in the United States who engaged the respondent to administer his late father’s estate in 2015.
On 9 November 2015, the complainant was requested to avail bank details which proceeds would be transferred into. With the promised transfer not materialising, the respondent became elusive when the complainant made follow-ups.
The fourth complainant is Kenneth Grant-Cocker who sought Chinyama’s services and was charged US$10 000. Since he did not have funds, he mulled selling his Toyota Hilux 4×4 motor vehicle.
The respondent expressed interest in purchasing the motor vehicle. The respondent agreed and was charged US$30 000 from which amount he would deduct his fees.
Grant-Cocker was advanced US$1 000 to enable him to travel to South Africa whilst his immigration matter was being attended to by the respondent. The immigration case was never satisfactorily resolved. He was paid further advances totaling US$4 000 leaving a balance of US$16 000.
Chinyama also did not procced with Grant-Cocker’s instruction for the annulment of his marriage and he had to engage another legal practitioner.
The fifth complainant is Findros Godzi who engaged Chinyama in November 2015 to represent him in a dispute with Telecel involving a motor vehicle.
In February 2017, Godzi learnt a default judgment had been granted against him as Chinyama had not filed heads of argument. The respondent asked to purchase the motor vehicle, but the complainant declined. Although an application for rescission of default judgment was filed, the complainant was advised this would not prevent execution of judgment.
Zhou Haixi is the sixth complainant who engaged the services of Chinyama and deposited US$70 000 into the trust account that was operated by the respondent.
When the complainant wrote to the respondent on 29 July 2016 enquiring on the status of his funds, there was no response. The respondent was also instructed to recover debts in the sums of US$20 000 and USS4 000 on two separate occasions. Despite having recovered the debts, the respondent failed to account for the amounts. Instead, the respondent then billed the complainant for US$132 790, which bill was contested by the complainant.
On the last count the complainant is Melgund Trading (Pvt) Ltd.
The complaint concerned the respondent’s charge of US$75 000 for representing the complainant in interpleader proceedings. When the complainant disputed the fee, a disputed acknowledgment of debt was then used to sue the complainant for payment of the disputed fees.
The legal disciplinary team found that in the complaints filed; in the first complaint, the respondent is guilty of unprofessional, dishonourable or unworthy conduct and on the second complaint, the respondent is guilty of unprofessional, dishonourable or unworthy conduct.
Third complaint, the respondent is found guilty of withholding trust money without lawful excuse and fourth complaint, the respondent is found guilty of withholding trust money without lawful excuse.
On the fifth complaint, the respondent is guilty of unprofessional, dishonourable or unworthy conduct in that he failed to account to the complainant and failed to defend the complainant’s case thereby resulting in a default judgment being granted and on the sixth complaint, the respondent is guilty of failing to account to client and withholding trust money without lawful cause.
On seventh complaint, the respondent is absolved of misconduct.