Top lawyer Mpofu in Zacc crosshairs

Thabani Mpofu

TOP lawyer, Advocate Thabani Mpofu is in Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc)’s crosshairs following allegations that he received “an inducement” from accused persons to conceal racism and human rights abuse allegations in a case where he was chairing an independent inquiry.

The allegations arose after Norton legislator Temba Mliswa (Independent) wrote a letter on February 18, 2020, to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) chairperson Elasto Mugwadi calling on him to intervene in the impasse between the workers of a mining company Breckridge Investments, a subsidiary of Dallaglio Investments, and the chief executive officer Mike Fowler along with chief finance officer Joseph Crnkovic.

Mliswa in his letter indicated that his role was “to receive and consider complaints of the public and to protect people from abuse of power”.

He told Mugwadi that he had been approached by workers of the gold mine in Chegutu, who told him of racial, emotional and moral abuse involving current and former employees against Fowler and Crnkovic.

Mpofu was then appointed to head an independent tribunal to look into the matter.

But according to Crnkovic, he was then told by his boss, Matthew Hossack, that he was going to face the tribunal alone.

Crnkovic was being represented by the company’s legal practitioners, Promethious Law/Lunga and Partners and his legal fees were paid by the company, while the workers were represented by Marufu Mandevere.

Crnkovic then received an email from Zweli Lunga, a partner in Promethious Law/Lunga and Partners requesting him to pay US$5 000 to the law firm for onward transmission to Mpofu.

The US$5 000 was allegedly transferred to Mpofu’s personal account held at Nedbank.

In the email submitted to the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) and Zacc as an exhibit from Mpofu to Hossack, Crnkovic, stated that: “Dear Matt, I have completed my task and this is my report. The necessary fees have been agreed with Zweli. The report has not been given to the employee.”

It is alleged that on May 27, 2020, Crnkovic received an email from Lunga which showed the fee that Mpofu had billed Lunga referencing Bleckridge Investments.

Crnkovic indicated that there was no tribunal held for Fowler, who was primarily the accused person.

In a statement to Zacc, Crnkovic said the issue was exacerbated by a case where he is representing Fopuld Investments, a plaintiff against Evolution Group trading as Glen Forest Memorial Cemetery, where Mpofu is also representing the defendant.

“I am now representing Fopuld Investments, who is plaintiff against Evolution Group trading as Glen Forest Memorial Cemetery, where Advocate Mpofu is representing the defendant. Certain events led me to suspect Advocate Mpofu of corruption in this case, but I have no evidence yet,” Crnkovic submitted to Zacc.

“The payment received by advocate Mpofu was a financial inducement for him to convince the employees that Fowler did not need to be looked into or the US$5 000 was a payment to advocate Mpofu for the tribunal to be non-independent.

“Advocate Mpofu acted corruptly when he received US$5 000 for work done in which the employees were convinced they were getting a fair hearing. How could a hearing be fair if both the company’s lawyers were representing me and Advocate Mpofu was also being paid by the same company? Why was an independent tribunal never held into Fowler when he was accused by Mliswa just like me? It is my belief that the US$5 000 was a bribe from the company as agreed by Hossack and Advocate Mpofu. The purpose of the bribe was to cause Advocate Mpofu to not look into Fowler, and also to convince the employees and myself that we were facing a fair hearing, which is not true,” the statement read.

Crnkovic said it was his belief that there was clear corruption between Hossack and Mpofu.

The case was allocated case number RRB003547 at Zacc and the investigating officer, Takunda Mulambo, is reportedly seized with the matter.

The LSZ also wrote to Mpofu seeking an explanation over the matter.

“I enclose herewith a letter of complaint received from the above-named. In the attached complaint, it is alleged that you executed your mandate in a corrupt manner. In terms of the LSZ by-laws, you are required to reply to the substance of the complaint in writing within 14 days. Kindly note that your failure to respond within the stipulated timeframe will result in negative inferences being drawn from your failure to respond and the matter would be forwarded to the Disciplinary and Ethics Committee without further reference to you,” LSZ executive secretary Edward Mapara said.

There are indications that Mpofu had made a report to LSZ that there were people who were out to extort him.

Mpofu could not be reached for comment, but an official familiar with the case said: “Mpofu could not, as a disciplinary authority, go outside his terms of reference and  neither could he demand more people to be tried than given. That would amount to touting. Besides, it is plainly illogical. So this complainant is saying Mpofu should have inquired into the conduct of Fowler. Why would he do that? And that Mpofu should not have been paid for his work?

“How could Breckridge bribe Mpofu so that Fowler is not tried? Mpofu had no authority over Fowler and Breckridge  did not have to bribe Mpofu as claimed. So this executive was happy being acquitted by Mpofu and for two years, he was content only to come back now?”

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