A TRANSCRIPT of a telephone conversation between suspended High Court Judge Benjamin Paradza – under probe by an international tribunal for misconduct – and Justice Mafios Cheda reveals fr
esh evidence that has been availed to judges when they start probing the jurist on Monday.
The document provides a record of the conversation between the two judges which resulted in Paradza’s arrest in February last year on charges that he wanted members of the bench to make a ruling in favour of his business partner Russell Labuschagne to have his passport released. The two were partners in a safari business.
Labuschagne, who has since been convicted and sentenced to 15 years, was on bail on a murder charge. His passport had been retained by the state as part of his bail conditions.
The case will now be decided by an international tribunal of judges which will sit as a court on Monday at the Harare Sheraton Hotel.
The transcript forms the government’s evidence-in-chief. The tribunal is headed by Justice Dennis Kamoni Chirwa of Zambia and includes Justices Isaac Mtambo of Malawi and John Mroso from Tanzania.
The transcript documents Pa-radza’s alleged attempt to influence Cheda to hear the case of Labuschagne and possibly release his passport. It is not clear who was responsible for taping the phone call.
In the transcript, Cheda is also quoted asking Paradza how he wants the case handled.
Cheda: “Okay. So you yourself want us to assist him in order to get your business moving forth?”
Paradza: “If it is possible. It is entirely your discretion and I mean you are a judge isn’t it and you will look at the case and… disagree with me or …”
Cheda: “Aah no, no. It is not a question of disagreeing. I mean you, yourself must tell me in confidence isn’t it, about how you want me to handle it.”
The transcript was made available to Paradza’s defence team by secretary of the tribunal, Jameson Mupariwa Mukaratirwa, last Wednesday. The transcript was handed over after Paradza’s lawyer Jonathan Samkange wrote to Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa requesting documents relating to the case.
Samkange yesterday confirmed the transcript would be produced before the tribunal.
Samkange is instructing advocates Eric Matinenga and Jeremy Gauntlett SC of South Africa.
In the transcript Justice Cheda at one point said he had been approached by an “Indian man” who wanted the judge to talk about Labuschagne’s case.
“Because you see, some Indian man approached me last time,” Cheda is recorded as saying. “He was trying to talk about that but I wasn’t sure what he was talking about.”
Earlier Cheda had asked what Paradza expected him to do.
Cheda: “Okay, so what do you want me to do about it?”
Paradza: “He (Labuschagne) wants his, I mean passport, so that at least he could prepare for this … hunting, I mean this one which is on the cards.”
Paradza explained to Cheda that Labuschagne required his passport to go to Spain to bring in hunters for a safari. Paradza said the case was “continuously being postponed”. He said Labuschagne had approached him about the passport issue together with a colleague “called Ralph Nkomo” whom Paradza described as “old man Nkomo’s child”.
Cheda: “So what do you yourself want to do now?”
Paradza: “You know, just assess. You can assess and see. Do you think it is safe to give him, and just give him say some two or so months, just to enable him to prepare?”
Cheda: “Okay, you mean looking into his bail application in question?”
Cheda asks how he would get hold of the court record, to which Paradza suggests contacting clerk of the court Joseph James who would ensure the case came before Cheda.
Paradza: “I will then tell Ralph Nkomo, and see if (he) should then talk with James.
Cheda: “So that James should make sure that it comes before me?”
Paradza: “Ehe, ehe.”
According to the transcript, Cheda then wanted to know how much Paradza would get if Labuschagne’s passport was released and hunters came to the safari.
Cheda: “And what is the white man or white persons going to assist you with…?”
Paradza: (Laughter)…”I mean apart from that alone…he supports hunters with money, of course I mean forex.”
Cheda: “How much are you expecting? How much do you intend (sic) to lose?”
Paradza: “I think around…We are looking at about US$60 000.”
In the transcript the two judges also discuss the role James will play in ensuring the case goes before Cheda.
Cheda: “So then it is James who is going to assist so that…?”
Paradza: “Yaah. James is a lawyer.”
Cheda: “Then James will make sure that it (the case) comes there to us?”
Paradza: “To you yourself.”
In the transcript Cheda asked how his responses to the request would be relayed to the other parties. Paradza said he would call Labuschagne. He also said he would find out from Nkomo if Labuschagne had filed bail papers in court.
Paradza: “But I will just phone Ralph and ask what’s up, did you submit, this and that and so forth.”
Cheda: “So that it goes to James, then James will engineer it comes to me?”
Cheda: “Yaah, Okay.”