UNIVERSITY of Zimbabwe law student Romeo Zibani is in deep trouble as he is failing to pay US$3 400 to Judicial Service Commission (JSC) lawyers Kantor and Immerman after his application to stop the conducting of interviews for the chief justice’s post was dismissed with costs by the Supreme Court in February.
By Wongai Zhangazha
The law firm is now seeking to attach his goods after several efforts to compel Zibani to settle the fees proved fruitless.
Zibani, represented by lawyers Venturas & Samukange, wanted to stop the chief justice interviews in December last year, arguing that the process was “unfair” and “not transparent”.
High Court Justice Charles Hungwe granted an interim interdict preventing the JSC from conducting public interviews, which was however challenged at the Supreme Court.
The JSC’s appeal was upheld by the Supreme Court, while Zibani’s application was dismissed with costs by judges Ben Hlatshwayo, Bharat Patel and Vernanda Ziyambi. During the CJ court battles, questions were raised as to how Zibani, a university student, was affording to pay steep legal fees, with some people suspecting that his legal fees were being paid by “handlers” who wanted the CJ interviews not to go ahead.
However, in a recent interview with our sister paper The Standard, Zibani said he was paying his lawyer, Jonathan Samukange, through installments, with the assistance of his aunt.
In a letter dated March 6, JSC lawyers made a formal demand for payment of costs of US$3 434 to Zibani through his lawyers Messrs Venturas & Samukange.
“We hereby demand that payment of the costs be made within seven days of this letter directly into our Trust Account, failing which execution will be levied,” wrote the JSC lawyers.
But since March, the payments have not been made, forcing the law firm to write to the Sheriff of the High Court on April 17 seeking the attachment of Zibani’s property.
“We refer to the above two matters and enclose herewith a copy of the Supreme Court order. We also enclose a typed bill of costs in sufficient copies. May you kindly execute the writ against Mr Zibani. He is employed by Venturas and Samukange and is also a student at the University of Zimbabwe,” reads the letter.
“We trust that you will be able to locate him and attach sufficient assets to satisfy the Writ. Since the application that he prepared does not contain any further particulars, we have inserted the address of the law firm that filed the application on his behalf as the address at which you should first attempt to locate him.”
Sources in the JSC said Zibani had no other choice but to pay the costs and failure to do that could result in his first pay check and payout being garnished.
“If he does not pay, it will really look bad on his side and profession. If Zibani does not pay, can he be registered as a lawyer who is a bad debtor? This is something that has become common even with politicians. They like to litigate but cannot afford,” said the source.
The hostile process, which was poisoned by Zanu PF factional fights as politicians sought to influence the selection process, came to an end after President Robert Mugabe appointed Justice Luke Malaba, replacing the late Godfrey Chidyausiku, who died this week.
Malaba scored 91% in public interviews conducted by the JSC, while the commission’s secretary Rita Makarau and Justice Paddington Garwe got 90% and 52% respectively.
The interviews were boycotted by Judge President George Chiweshe.
A camp linked to Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa wanted Chiweshe elevated to CJ, while a faction backing First Lady Grace Mugabe pushed for the ascendancy of Makarau.