THERE was drama at the Crowné Plaza Hotel yesterday when one of the aspiring judges, Jacob Manzunzu, was served with court papers by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) ordering him to appear at the High Court to defend an earlier acquittal on a fraud charge.
Manzunzu is a former Registrar and Sheriff of the High Court of Zimbabwe and former Deputy Registrar of the Botswana High Court.
He was part of the 46 candidates who were invited to attend interviews for the six vacant posts of judges of the High Court.
However, his integrity and credibility was put to test immediately after walking out of the interviewing Great Indaba Room at Crowné Plaza Hotel, when NPA officials pounced on him and served him with the court papers.
During the interview, Manzunzu attempted to impress the members of the Judiciary Service Commission (JSC) led by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyasusiku, before he was questioned over his integrity.
Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba dropped the bombshell when he asked Manzunzu to comment on his alleged misconduct that had been referred to the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ).
“It’s not a serious matter. In fact, I would not want to pre-empt that matter because after the complaint was raised, there was a bit of miscommunication, but as we speak, I have since responded to the letter written by the LSZ,” Manzunzu said.
Probed further to reveal what the matter was all about, Manzunzu became evasive and said “it was a matter to do with the late filing of heads of argument, I was said to have delayed to file them, but that problem has since been rectified”.
According to investigations carried out yesterday by NewsDay, the matter over which Manzunzu was asked to appear before the High Court by the NPA involved his alleged fraudulent deals while he was employed as the Registrar and Sheriff of the High Court.
Manzunzu is alleged to have facilitated the buying of a property belonging to one Joy Sibongile Manyimo. The property had allegedly been fraudulently acquired leading to Manyimo’s eviction from the house by the court.
Manyimo reported the matter to police, but when the trial was conducted at the Magistrates Court, Manzunzu was acquitted. The State appealed against the acquittal leading to the pending review proceedings in the High Court.
While being interviewed Manzunzu boasted of vast experience in the legal fraternity saying he had helped the Botswana government to establish a law school where he was still a director.
He also brought some moments of laughter when he told the interviewing panellists that he was not aiming to be in the top six of the expected number of judges to be engaged but to be in “top one”.
According to the State papers during the period extending from 2000 to 2003, Manzunzu was employed by the Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs ministry and attached to the High court.
It is alleged in 2000, Manyimo bought a property, house number 3 at Rosedean Gardens, Ashdown Park, from Inchdale Investment which was represented by one Adelino Jose Bento.
In this respect, an agreement of sale was signed by both parties, but ownership transfer was not effected because Bento later went out of the country.
When Bento left Zimbabwe, it is alleged, his company owed Standard Chartered Bank cash and in a bid to recover the said money from Inchdale Investment, the bank identified two properties number 1 and 22 Rosedean Gardens for auctioning.
Manzunzu, who was responsible for authorising auctions at the High Court, allegedly bought house number 22 Rosedean Gardens.
This forced Samuriwo to complain against the purchase of the house by Manzunzu.
In a bid to cover up for his misdeeds, Manzunzu allegedly connived with Patrick Nyeperayi, Tichaona Samuriwo and Clemence Mahuni to defraud Manyimo of her property and pursuant to their plan, they purported as if Manyimo’s house was identified as one of the properties identified by the bank for auctioning.
As a result, Manyimo’s house was fraudulently sold to Tichaona Francis Samuriwo by the High Court of Zimbabwe through purported private treaty without her knowledge.
About 11 candidates appeared before the panel yesterday bringing the total number of the interviewed prospective judges to 35. The last candidates will be interviewed today.