HARARE – Embattled businessman Philip Chiyangwa faces another hefty charge and bill in his “dramatic divorce” from wife Elizabeth after the plaintiff’s lawyer demanded a $350 000 fee from him.
The development comes as the tycoon’s camp has gone all out to query Isaiah Mureriwa’s legal status and claim to practice as both an advocate, and ordinary lawyer, while also making these exorbitant pendente lite (awaiting litigation) claims.
“We are acting for (Mr) Chiyangwa in a matter where maintenance pendente lite and a contribution towards costs is sought by Messrs Scanlen and Holderness… in the sum of $350 000,” wrote Kantor and Immerman’s Addington Chinake in a letter also copied to Scanlen & Holderness (S&H) senior partner Sternford Moyo.
“We need to take full instructions from our client, and, as part of our due diligence process, we request from you the date of registration of (Mr) Isiah Mureriwa, as a legal practitioner so that we can ascertain his charge-out rate per the Law Society (of Zimbabwe) tariffs,” he said.
“He addresses himself as ‘Advocate Isiah Mureriwa’. Kindly confirm that he is registered as such in our jurisdiction. If so, may you also clarify whether he is entitled to practice as both an advocate and a legal practitioner in terms of the Law Society regulations,” Chinake said, adding the issues raised had “ethical implications, which could arise later and they had instructions to pursue”.
On the other hand, Elizabeth bases her argument for the hefty legal costs advance on the basis that she was accustomed to a life of “extreme extravagance”, the matrimonial proceedings may take long to conclude and that she may not have any income since she would have broken up with the self-styled empowerment guru.
According to the appellant’s own papers — forming part of Elizabeth’s massive $230 million claim or 85 percent of Chiyangwa’s wealth — a pendente lite is described as a contribution by one of the litigating parties towards his or her estranged partner’s legal costs, especially in cases where the applicant or defendant has no capacity to cover the fees.
While Chiyangwa’s corner is querying Mureriwa’s payment based on his experience, having joined S&H about two years ago, and the LSZ schedule of payments, it has somehow expressed shock and amazement at his entitlement claim given that his client is supposedly well resourced.
Based on a $120 per hour rate for lawyers’ of Mureriwa’s professional ranking, the lawyer is in line to earn 2 916 hours – or 121 days – worth of cash.
In her November 25, claim, Elizabeth not only wants a significant portion of her 53-year-old husband’s known properties, but is demanding nearly $10 million in cash for her upkeep in the next 10 years.
In addition to this, she wants cars, a $1 million once-off payment and other assets.
And if she succeeds, she stands to be one of the world’s richest divorcees — along Heather McCartney and billionaire Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich’s wife Irina, who got a $300 million payoff in 2006.
However, some of the assets and companies she listed are no longer Chiyangwa’s.
With controversy continuing to rage over Mureriwa and Elizabeth’s handling of the divorce case, which Chiyangwa says is a nullity because he still “loves his wife”, the defence team has also written to the High Court complaining about how the matter has been splashed in papers when it had not been served with the summons, thus prompting Mureriwa to call for a truce.
In the meantime, Moyo was unavailable for comment yesterday to clarify some of the issues raised by Chiyangwa’s corner.