VICE President Constantino Chiwenga has raised a complaint against Judge President George Chiweshe after the judgement in a child custody case was allegedly leaked to his estranged wife, Marry Mubaiwa, before being officially handed down in court.
Justice Chiweshe is the head of the High Court in Zimbabwe.
VP Chiwenga, through his lawyers — Manase & Manase Legal Practitioners — has written to Justice Chiweshe seeking an explanation as to why the judgement in the child custody case was leaked to Mubaiwa and a local newspaper, well before it was handed down in court.
Last Friday, the newspaper had banners all over the streets announcing Mubaiwa’s victory in the child custody case, but the court only officially handed down judgement after 1030am the same day.
The purpose of our writing is to register our client’s complaint in the manner in which the judgement in the above matter has been handled.
“The High Court, which is headed by yourself, may have answers to the complaints raised by our client herein,” reads the letter.
Mubaiwa, according to the lawyers, is related to the Judge President and the relationship was now prejudicing VP Chiwenga in the court cases involving her estranged wife.
“Our client advises us that you are related to the applicant Ms Marry Mubaiwa and she has made numerous bald assertions in public that you are related and have sorted and influenced all matters involving her in her favour to the prejudice of our client.
“We, with respect, wish to register our client’s concern over allegations emanating from the said relationship with the applicant and complain over the conduct of the applicant in accessing court judgments and orders before they have been officially handed down to both litigants.
“These allegations are known by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), the lawyers for the applicant and various other parties which we can divulge to you in confidence,” the letter reads.
On Friday, the letter further reads, Mubaiwa went to the children’s school as early as 8am and demanded to see the children while armed with a court order, well before judgement was handed down.
“The applicant in this matter attended the parties’ children’s school at 8am today (Friday January 24) armed with an order of this court and stated to the school authorities that she had been granted an order by the High Court to have access to the children.
“Our client telephoned us to inquire as to whether judgement had been handed down in the matter to which we confirmed that the matter was still pending and a diligent enquiry at the registry confirmed our position.
“We were then telephoned by the Honourable Justice Dube-Banda’s clerk at 0927am advising us that the Honourable judge wished to meet parties in chambers to hand down the judgement,” reads the letter.
VP Chiwenga was at a loss on how Mubaiwa got to know of the outcome before judgement hand been handed down.
“Could it be that there is a new system of handing down judgements wherein litigants are given court orders before official pronouncements?
“We also wonder why the said judgement, before it was handed down, got publicised in the Independent newspaper advising the public that Marry Mubaiwa had won the case she had filed,” said VP Chiwenga’s lawyers.
The lawyers asked for an explanation within 48 hours. They argued that handing down of the judgement at 1030 was just a formality to sanitise the illegality.
“The summoning of the parties at 1030am, in our respectful view, was merely a formality to sanitise the blatant illegality that had occurred, more particularly that the judgement had already been publicised in the media and that applicant had used it to facilitate the taking of children from school before it was handed down.
“Our client requests that you urgently revert to us within 48 hours upon receipt of this letter as he feels the system may have been compromised,” further reads the letter.
Justice Chiweshe is yet to respond to the issues raised by the VP’s lawyers.
Last week, Mubaiwa won her High Court appeal for custody of the couple’s three minor children and access to the couple’s matrimonial home.
But her joy was short-lived after VP Chiwenga filed a notice of appeal at the Supreme Court, challenging the lower court’s decision.
The filing of a notice of appeal effectively suspends the court ruling until determination of the appeal.
Justice Christopher Dube-Banda ordered that the custody of children be restored to Mubaiwa and barred the Vice President from interfering with her access to the Borrowdale Brooke house they shared before their fallout.
Mubaiwa had sought the intervention of the High Court after the children were taken from her and she was barred from the Borrowdale Brooke matrimonial home following the couple’s fallout.
“The respondent is hereby ordered to restore the custody of the minor children, namely Tendai Dominique Chiwenga (born 4 November 2011), Christian Tawanazororo Chiwenga (born 15 November 2012) and Michael Alexander Chiwenga (born 13 February 2014) to the custody of the applicant within 24 hours of this order,” ruled Justice Dube-Banda.
“The respondent is hereby ordered and restrained from interfering with applicant’s access to use and enjoyment of the property known as 614 Nick Price Drive, Borrowdale Brooke, Borrowdale, Harare.”
VP Chiwenga was also restrained from blocking Mubaiwa from accessing the vehicles.
However, the VP filed a notice of appeal, outlining errors he says the High Court made in the matter.