HARARE – MDC spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora did not falsify a High Court date stamp as alleged by the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LCZ), a senior court official has said.
LSZ is seeking to deregister Mwonzora and a host of other lawyers for varying indiscretions.
However, in a letter to the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe, acting Labour Court Registrar Aynos Mudefi exonerated Mwonzora.
“On whether the date stamp was falsified by Mwonzora, it is the office’s position that the date stamp was not falsified. In her own admission our Mrs Slanti (the duty officer) resorted to the use of the Master’s stamp since she could not access the Registrar’s stamp. The amendment is even signed for by herself and as such the issue of falsification does not arise,” Mudefi’s letter reads.
Mwonzora, who operates Mwonzora and Associates, was convicted by the LSZ of professional misconduct after he allegedly used a forged or irregular notice of appeal in a bid to stop eviction of a client from a disputed property.
LSZ last month filed applications to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal based at the High Court to have Mwonzora and 12 others scrapped off the register of legal practitioners.
Mudefi, who was assistant Registrar in charge of operations at the time of the alleged forgery, says: “My duties inter-alia included supervising officers in the Registrar’s Office and drawing up a duty roster of duty officers responsible for issuing Urgent Chamber applications brought outside normal working days and hours.”
“During the first weekend of May 2007, I received a call from Mwonzora who advised me that he wanted to issue an Urgent Chamber Application in the High Court and needed the assistance of the Registrar,” the letter said.
Mudefi added that he then advised Mwonzora to get in touch with a Mrs Slanti, who was the duty officer, on her mobile phone.
“The following Monday, Mrs Slanti narrated to me that when she reported for duty she could not access the Registrar’s date stamp since it was locked away in a separate office.
“She then resorted to the use of the Master of the High Court date stamp to issue the documents. Since the Master’s stamp was not the official stamp, she cancelled the word ‘‘Master’’ and inserted the word ‘‘Registrar’’ and signed for the amendment,” said Mudefi.
On the issue of “Noting an inappropriate appeal” Mudefi’s agrees with LSZ that it was wrong for Mwonzora to lodge such an appeal outside working hours.
“However, upon perusal of the documents which were filed, I noted that it was in fact a notice of appeal. I then directed her to write to Mwonzora advising him of that position and to cancel the Notice of Appeal from our register.
“The Notice of appeal (is therefore irregular) since it was not supposed to be issued on a non-business day but I disagree that the Notice was forged. The basis of the letter dated May 5, 2007 was to advise Mwonzora of the procedural irregularity of filing an appeal outside business days and not forgery,” wrote Mudefi.
Lawyer Amon Toto, who is representing Mwonzora, told the Daily News yesterday that the latest revelation shows his client is innocent.
“This shows Mwonzora did not forge any documents at court neither did he participate in any illegal act.
Regarding the so-called irregularity of the notice; Rule 4 (c) of the High Court allows a court in this case the Registrar to vary rules in an emergency or in the interest of justice.
“We are of the belief that stopping an eviction allowed a departure from the normal court rules and was in the interest of justice because we were correcting an unnecessary hardship on a litigant,” Toto said.
An LSZ tribunal found Mwonzora guilty of criminal misconduct and sought to have his name struck off the register of practising legal practitioners.