BY STAFF REPORTER
Harare lawyer Doreen Vimbai Gapare was recently fined $500 by the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) after she was convicted of unprofessional and compromised conduct in handling a case involving senior journalist Geoffrey Nyarota.
Nyarota, who is the founding editor-in-chief of the Daily News, reported Gapare to the LSZ in February 2017 for gross negligence in the handling of his dismissal by Association Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), publishers of the Daily News, in May 2010.
The matter went to arbitration and on August 2, 2011, arbitrator Johnlife Mawire found ANZ guilty of summarily and illegally dismissing Nyarota from his employment.
The arbitrator then awarded Nyarota a total of $90 921 as compensation and damages, whereafter Gapare successfully applied for registration of the arbitral award at the High Court.
Nyarota was then requested by Gapare to pay Scanlen and Holderness $650 towards the execution of the award by the Deputy Sheriff. But after the money was paid, the execution was never enforced.
Subsequent inquiry by Nyarota revealed that the amount had been transferred to Gapare’s account at the law firm on her instruction.
ANZ later filed an appeal at the Labour Court against both judgment and quantification of the award and the court then requested the parties to file heads of argument in order for the matter to proceed, but Gapare failed to do so.
By the time the matter was finally set down for hearing, 19 months later, Gapare had still not done anything, claiming that Nyarota was in arrears in payment of his legal fees.
Nyarota dismissed her assertions, arguing that there was no record of any such demand having been made to him at the material time.
It, however, emerged that Gapare had, in fact, given an undertaking in writing to the clerk of the Labour Court in November 2012 that she would submit the heads of argument by December 2, 2012.
When the matter was finally heard on July 10, 2015, the Labour Court handed down a default judgment against Nyarota and upheld ANZ’s application.
Nyarota then reported Gapare to the LSZ in February 2017 and in June 2018, the LSZ ruled that it was Gapare’s duty to protect her client.
“In coming up with an appropriate sentence, council considered the fact that a legal practitioner should, at all times, while seized with a matter in the best interests of the client, as the client relies on the expertise and competence of a legal practitioner,” LSZ executive secretary, Edward Mapara wrote to Gapare in a letter dated February 5.
“It was council’s view that a legal practitioner’s conduct should not, in any way, prejudice the client, as had been the case in this matter. Council has, thus, resolved that you be ordered to pay a fine of $500 within 21 days of notification.”
In considering the case, the disciplinary and ethics committee of the LSZ also considered Nyarota’s complaint that Gapare had improperly associated with ANZ’s chief operations officer, Sharon Samushonga, when she took to hugging her in the court room.
Nyarota had complained that it was insensitive of his lawyer to display such affection in court towards his opponent.