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Mpofu under fire

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Mines minister Obert Mpofu’s decision to appoint deregistered lawyer Godwills Masimirembwa as chairperson of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) was irregular as he was not a person of “impeccable integrity”, the High Court heard yesterday.

Harare lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, who is representing Core Mining and Mineral Resources shareholder Lovemore Kurotwi facing a $2 billion fraud case, said Masimirembwa’s appointment was based on “his acquaintance with Mpofu”, who as then Minister of Trade in 2007, appointed the deregistered lawyer chairperson of the National Incomes and Pricing Commission.

Kurotwi is being charged alongside former ZMDC chief executive Dominic Mubaiwa with allegedly misrepresenting to Mpofu specifics of a joint venture deal between his company Core Mining and Mineral Resources and the government-owned Marange Resources. The misrepresentation, the State argues, resulted in government suffering a potential $2 billion prejudice.

After Masimirembwa gave his evidence-in-chief during the second day of Kurotwi’s trial, Mtetwa questioned the deregistered lawyer’s integrity and wondered how and why Mpofu had appointed him the chairperson of ZMDC.

“Prior to your appointment as ZMDC chairperson, you were acquainted with Mpofu when he was Minister of Trade. How the minister (Mpofu) could trust and appoint someone who abused people’s funds to hold such office (sic), do you consider yourself to be a person of integrity?” asked Mtetwa.

In response, Masimirembwa said he believed he was “honourable” and went further to allege that the Law Society of Zimbabwe was refusing to readmit him as a practising lawyer because of his Zanu PF political affiliation.

“The Law Society is denying readmission on political grounds. I have since been rehabilitated. I paid back the monies and have reformed and corrected myself from the mistakes and that’s the basis of my application,” he said.

At that point, the State counsel — deputy director of public prosecutions Chris Mutangadura — objected to Mtetwa’s cross-examination, arguing she was “character-assassinating” Masimirembwa, but Justice Chinembiri Bhunu overruled the objection.

Masimirembwa was struck off the register of Legal Practitioners, Notaries and Conveyancers in March 1997 for “unprofessional and dishonourable conduct” by the Legal Disciplinary Tribunal.

The tribunal ruled that Masimirembwa had failed to account adequately or at all to clients in respect of fees he charged for work not done or contrary to clients’ instructions.

Apart from that, Masimirembwa, of then Masimirembwa & Associates law firm, had failed to keep proper books of accounts and to comply with the requirements of bookkeeping by-laws.

He had also practised as a legal practitioner without holding the relevant practising certificate.

Yesterday, the ZMDC boss told the court he paid back what he had misappropriated in 2008.

Masimirembwa produced copies of documents he allegedly recovered from Mubaiwa’s office, but was not allowed to comment on them after the defence argued he was not the author nor the receipient.

The trial continues today.

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