THE Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) has issued a stern warning to errant legal practitioners misappropriating trust funds as the number of complaints recorded this year rose to 310 from 251 in 2012.
LSZ president Lloyd Mhishi told the Zimbabwe Independent this week his organisation would not hesitate to deal firmly with lawyers caught on the wrong side of the law.
“We don’t tolerate unprofessional conduct and we are cleaning up cases which have come to the LSZ,” he said. “We investigate and take appropriate action with regards to all the complaints we receive.”
LSZ executive secretary Edward Mapara said 251 cases were carried forward from 2012, of which 139 were dealt with. In some instances, he said, lawyers were found not guilty while others were found wanting, resulting in penalties.
By the end of August this year, LSZ had received 310 complaints, but the organisation had only managed to deal with 65 cases.
“We expect to deal with more cases before the end of the year,” added Mapara.
As part of the punishment against unprofessional lawyers, four have since been de-registered this year while two were suspended.
Mapara said three lawyers, who were practicing as principals, were asked to operate under other legal practitioners.
He said about 11 cases were still before the tribunal and were expected to be finalised soon.
After de-registration or suspension, a lawyer is banned from operating as a legal practitioner.
However, some errant lawyers evade punishment by working in other law firms and ensuring that they do not appear in courts.
It has also emerged that some of the law firms engage suspended or de-registered lawyers who operate as clerks although they would be performing duties of a registered lawyer.
Some of the lawyers who were de-registered after LSZ’s recommendation to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal include Edmond Chivhinge of Chivhinge and Associates, Pfungwa Warren Makunike of Makunike and Associates and Blessing Nhambure.
Bulawayo lawyer Masimba Munjanja was jailed for an effective one year for defrauding a 72-year-old home seeker of 30 000 rands.
Munjanja also failed to facilitate the transfer of a property despite receiving conveyancing fees amounting to US$4 638 from a Bulawayo client.
A Zvishavane lawyer Margaret Dutiro was also incarcerated for an effective three years for stealing US$20 000 from one of her clients.
Losing MDC-T candidate for Redcliff constituency, Tapera Sengweni, a lawyer, was also arrested on three counts of stocktheft and one count of abusing trust funds. Sengweni was also accused of stealing US$12 794 from Nicholas Masuku of Mbizo.
A prominent Bulawayo lawyer Sindiso Mazibisa of Cheda and Partners was accused of swindling a South Africa-based businessman Titus Ncube who wanted to buy shares in the attorney’s mining entity worth US$350 000.
Mhishi said disciplinary processes against errant lawyers were expected to improve in 2014. “Those affected by unprofessional behaviour of lawyers should approach the LSZ for redress,” he said.