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Cheda law firm shut down

By Thandeka Moyo

BULAWAYO – Cheda and Partners Law Firm has finally shut down. In a notice put outside the building that the law firm was renting, the curator Advocate Perpetua Dube advised clients to direct queries to the Law Society of Zimbabwe.

Sindiso Mazibisa
Sindiso Mazibisa

“To all clients of Cheda and Partners, please be advised that the firm has closed down with effect from May, 15, 2015. All clients whose files were still held by the firm direct their enquiries to the Administrator of the Law Society of Zimbabwe,” read the notice.

Adv Dube also thanked the clients for “your patronage over many years”.

The law firm has been under curatorship since February 5 after the LSZ, the legal profession regulator, detected alleged abuse of trust funds running into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The law firm’s demise was triggered when its two senior partners, Sindiso Mazibisa and Mlamuli Ncube, surrendered their practising certificates.

They were later suspended by the LSZ pending fraud investigations, one of which was the alleged theft of $335,000 by Mazibisa which was held in trust.

The third senior partner, Nqobizitha Ndlovu, was later suspended by LSZ for interfering with Adv Dube’s duties.

Last month, Advocate Dube informed Cheda and Partners employees and clients that the law firm would cease operations with effect from April 30, while terminating their employment contracts. Clients were allowed to pick their files until May 15.

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Cheda and Partners was a top rate law firm in Zimbabwe with its head office in Bulawayo and branches in Gwanda and Victoria Falls.

The firm was established in 1992 by its founding partner, the former senior Bulawayo High Court Judge, Justice Maphios Cheda, who later left to join the bench.

At its peak, Cheda and Partners had no less than seven major financial institutions, insurance companies, hundreds of small companies and thousands of individual clients.

With Mazibisa as the new senior partner starting in 2002, the law firm continued to ride on goodwill until the last decade when allegations of impropriety surfaced against Cheda and Partners’ lawyers.

Lawyers were accused of raiding the company’s trust funds, inflating legal fees, selling people’s houses using forged documents and unprofessional conduct.

LSZ spokesperson Vimbai Nyemba said recently that a report on a forensic audit undertaken at the law firm will be out soon.

The smoking gun which precipitated the collapse of Cheda and Partners was the apparent misuse of $335,000 by Mazibisa, which had been deposited with the law firm by businessman, Titus Ncube, in March 2013.

Ncube intended to buy shares in a gold mine with Mazibisa as broker, but he later developed cold feet and asked that the money be released back to him.

Mazibisa admitted the money was no longer there. In a letter to Ncube dated October 17, 2013, he stated that after reviewing Cheda and Partners’ cash flows, he would pay back the money in four instalments starting on December 15, 2013, and finishing on February 15, 2014.

The lawyer never honoured his “firm settlement/payment proposal”, forcing Ncube to report him to the LSZ for abuse of trust funds and also file for a summary judgement at the High Court for Cheda and Partners to get his money back. Judgement is pending.

Mazibisa was recently sucked into a mine wrangle in Filabusi, together with Sport, Arts and Culture Minister Andrew Langa, after their ownership of shares in the gold mine was disputed.

Mazibisa was alleged to have taken shareholding in the disputed gold mine in exchange for legal representation, conduct which a lawyer representing his rivals described as unprofessional and unprocedural.

Police are pursuing criminal complaints against both Mazibisa and Ncube, with the latter accused of defrauding home owners using forged documents. The Chronicle