Chombo in court over US$100 000 legal fees debt

According to the court papers, Chombo engaged the law firm to represent her in a legal matter at the High Court under HC 4404/2012 for divorce proceedings. 

Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs minister Marian Chombo has been taken to court for allegedly failing to pay her lawyers Beatrice Mtetwa of Mtetwa and Nyambirai Legal Practitioners who represented her in the highly-publicised divorce proceedings with ex-husband, Ignatius.

Mtetwa represented Chombo both at the High Court and Supreme Court in an infamous trial that exposed her former husband's vast business empire.

The law firm, represented by Harrison Nkomo, has submitted a US$100 000 legal bill, which Chombo is reportedly refusing to pay.

According to the court papers, Chombo engaged the law firm to represent her in a legal matter at the High Court under HC 4404/2012 for divorce proceedings. 

The law firm through its senior partner Mtetwa, represented her throughout the divorce action and a subsequent appeal to the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe. 

Mtetwa and Nyambirai Legal Practitioners then raised legal fees in December 2022, which fees were then negotiated between the parties and a discounted fee of US$100 000 inclusive of value added tax was agreed upon. 

She allegedly admitted liability and undertook to pay the legal fees through her agent, one Jamu in October 2022. 

In September 2023, she undertook to pay the agreed amount in instalments commencing  November 2023. 

"Despite several reminders, defendant failed, and or refused to make any payment in November 2023. On 4 December 2023, defendant asked for the plaintiff's nostro account details which were provided to her agent. 

"To date, no payment has been made in fulfilling the undertaking to settle the legal fees," the court papers read.

"Despite demand, the defendant has failed and or neglected and or refused to pay the amount due to the plaintiff.

ln the summary of evidence, Mtetwa submitted that Chombo specifically requested her representation in the divorce proceedings after she dumped her lawyer Motsi Sinyoro for non-payment and she also accused him of being close to her former husband after he had dome legal work for the family.

Mtetwa said she later discovered that Chombo owed Sinyoro US$11 775,75 after she demanded Chombo's file from him. She said Sinyoro refused to release the file before receiving his payment from Chombo.

Mtetwa said fearing that the minister could be prejudiced if she had no representation, she then assumed agency in the divorce action and she paid for copies of all pleadings filed of record to 

"The divorce action was very hotly contested with many twists and turns which necessitated the bringing of many interlocutory applications when attempts were made to short circuit the process. Such interlocutory applications included an application for the rescission of an order striking out the Defendant's plea, defence and counter-claim in the divorce action after a High Court judge had set down the divorce action for a pre-trial conference on two days' notice when the Defendant’s husband became aware that she had travelled out of the country. 

"Although the pre-trial conference judge was advised by the legal practitioner that she had not been able to contact the defendant who was unaware of the pre-trial conference, the plea, defence and counterclaim were nevertheless struck out. 

"Despite the bringing of the application for rescission under Case No. HC 2089/12, with all the documentary proof that defendant was indeed away when the PTC notice was served, the divorce action was nevertheless set down on the unopposed Family Court roll which necessitated the bringing of an urgent chamber application for the removal of the matter from the unopposed roll pending the final determination of the rescission application," Mtetwa submitted.

She submitted that there were many extensive and intense negotiations which included Advocate Thabani Mpofu for Ignatius Chombo, and her team which included Advocate Girach 

 "This process ultimately resulted in a partial settlement of the divorce action on 31 August, 2012 with the defendant's perceived rights in the land reform farm being referred to trial. During this period, the defendant kept promising payment towards her legal fees, promises that she never kept.

 Mtetwa said the law firm initially raised a bill of  US$200 000 which Chombo agreed to pay in instalments, but later negotiated for a downward review of the fees to US$100 000.

She submitted that the minister acknowledged in writing owing US$100 000 by September 31, 2014, and promised to pay in two instalments of US$50 000 each.

"Despite the minister's failure to pay the legal fees as agreed, despite selling flats awarded to her in the consent order through different lawyers, she nevertheless pursued an appeal to the Supreme Court following the High Court’s refusal to award her any rights to the land reform farm. 

"Despite being a security file, the High Court file with pleadings mysteriously disappeared from the High Court which resulted in DR Chombo bringing an application to evict her from the farm on the basis that she had deliberately failed to pursue the appeal. 

"The application was opposed as there was ample evidence that the defendant’s legal practitioners had done all in their power to reconstruct the file with no cooperation from the office of the Registrar or Dr Chombo’s legal practitioners," Mtetwa submitted.

She said the High Court dismissed  Chombo's ex-husband's eviction order saying she was not responsible for the disappearance of the court record.

Mtetwa said despite these unusual legal services that continued to be rendered, the minister continued to make false payment promises.

She said at one time, Chombo's son Ignatius Chombo apologized on behalf of his mother and deposited US$2 360 into the law firm's nostro account.

The matter is pending.


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