HIGH Court judge Justice Nicholas Mathonsi has slammed the Law Society of Zimbabwe for turning a blind eye on questionable activities by lawyer Puwayi Chiutsi, who is facing allegations of misuse of trust funds.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
In a hard hitting judgment, Justice Mathonsi described the lawyer’s actions as a disgrace to the profession.
Chiutsi had made an application for an order to set aside confirmation of a sale in execution of his house in Highlands, Harare in “pursuant of a judgment of this court granted on November 4, 2014 in favour of Elliot Rogers, a former client of Chiutsi, in the sum of $70 000”.
Rogers is now represented by Tendai Biti of Tendai Biti Law. Mathonsi in a judgment dated October 4, 2018 said he was in possession of eight court records brought by Chiutsi in his bid to “frustrate the execution of the judgment granted in favour of his former client”. Biti reportedly submitted that there were in fact 15 applications and two Supreme Court appeals in which Chiutsi lost all with costs.
Mathonsi asked: “How does an accusation of theft of large sums of trust money given to a certified legal practitioner in his capacity as a conveyancer sit well with such a legal practitioner, exhibiting not a jot of shame or contrition, contest anything and everything brought to court in an effort to right the wrong he has committed (with pun intended), without even an attempt to construct a meritable case?”
He said it was shocking that Chiutsi was still practising as a lawyer.
“More importantly, how and indeed why is such a legal practitioner still enjoying the pride of space among the rank and file in this noble profession? He continues freely traversing the country as a legal practitioner. It is disgraceful,” the judgment read.
Court papers show that in 2012, Rogers sold a piece of land for $266 000 and engaged Chiutsi as conveyancer. Money was paid, but the lawyer reportedly took a whole year just to register the transfer.
“Meanwhile, Chiutsi had only paid the sum of $150 000 of the purchase price to Rogers, leaving a balance of $116 000.
“He (Chiutsi) later tried to appropriate most of it as his legal fees despite him being entitled to a small fraction of that in terms of the conveyancing tariff,” the judge said, adding it was this issue that triggered the legal battle that has been running for some six years.
After attempts to attach immovable property against Chiutsi had met with “numerous interpleader proceedings”, the Sheriff was instructed to sell the lawyer’s house, but Chiutsi also objected to the sale which went through in September 2016 for $270 000 on the basis that he had a High Court application pending.
Chiutsi also accused the Sheriff of having a personal relationship with Rogers and indicated he wanted the State to settle the debt from the National Housing Fund meant for “indigents”.