LAWYERS representing Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa’s United Families International Church (UFIC) have been accused of seeking to circumvent legal procedure after they allegedly refused to pay conveyance fees for a property they are purchasing on behalf of the church.
Payment of conveyance fees is a statutory requirement and one of the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ)’s standing rules.
Makandiwa’s lawyers claimed the church could not pay the fees because it was poor and lived on “a shoe-string budget”.
Under Statutory Instrument 24 of 2013 published in the Government Gazette, legal practitioners are obliged to charge conveyance fees and failure to abide by the rules is deemed to be an act of misconduct.
According to correspondence from Makandiwa’s lawyers Mushangwe & Company, shown to NewsDay, UFIC sought to purchase an immovable property from Tsitsi Makovah, who is being represented by lawyer Succeed Katundwa.
However, the lawyers clashed after Nickiel Mushangwe, for UFIC, allegedly declined to charge the church conveyance fees on the basis that the church was a non-profit-making and philanthropic organisation.
“As you are aware, UFIC is a non-profit philanthropist (sic) organisation. They have meagre resources and they live on a shoe-string budget. Our (Nickiel) Mushangwe, being a member of the church, is extending his hand to the church free of charge and he is not receiving any conveyancing fees towards the transfer,” said the law firm in an email to Takundwa.
Makandiwa’s lawyers argued that their gesture might have been misinterpreted to mean they were out to line their pockets when they were getting no financial rewards from the transaction.
“We, however, believe that in the fullness of time the Lord Jesus whom we believe in will reward us,” they said.
In further stunning revelations, the lawyers said the LSZ was aware that the law firm did legal work free of charge for UFIC.
“We have done numerous similar conveyacing work on behalf of this church without any charges being levied. The Law Society is aware of this,” they said.
They accused Takundwa of delaying the transaction after UFIC and Makovah had already agreed on the terms, save for a balance of $500 000.
“We also note that you appear not to be happy with the immediate transfer of the property into our client’s name. There is a clause in the agreement of sale which provides that our client will secure a bank guarantee as a security for the payment of the balance of $500 000,” reads the e-mail dated May 19, 2013.
In an e-mail dated May 14 written to LSZ secretary Edward Mapara, Takundwa sought clarification over how Mushangwe was exempted from charging conveyance fees when doing work for UFIC.
In interviews with NewsDay yesterday, Takundwa said there was no feud between him and Mushangwe, but all he wanted was for things to be done above board.
“We are resolving matters amicably, but we are seeking clarity over this issue. If we give our time away for free, what else is left? Only under special circumstances can conveyancing be done for free,” he said.
Mushangwe said the issue was confidential as it concerned private communication between legal practitioners.
“I am afraid this was private communication between legal practitioners. I don’t think I am qualified to comment,” he said.
LSZ president Lloyd Mhishi could not be reached for comment, but a member of the society, who declined to be named for professional reasons, said payment of conveyance fees was a legal obligation.
“It is mandatory that conveyancing fees be paid and there are no exceptions,” said the lawyer.