By Fidelis Munyoro
Businessman Frank Buyanga and ex-girlfriend Chantelle Muteswa are playing their son like “a football” around the courts, the High Court said in a judgment that slammed the businessman for lying.
The businessman approached the court in his latest application seeking a stay of execution of a High Court order by Justice Jacob Manzunzu compelling him to return the little boy to his mother, Muteswa, with that order also to act as an arrest warrant if he did not return the boy in 24 hours.
But in his ruling rejecting this application, Justice Joseph Mafusire censured the pair for playing the little boy like football with the courts being used as their playground.
“Someone should spare a thought for Daniel Alexander Sadiq (the child),” he said. “No one can ever wish to share his experience. Certainly, not this court. It is the upper guardian of all minor children in Zimbabwe.”
The judge said after the estranged couple parted ways, they have been at each other’s throat, tussling for the child’s custody, in the process blindly lunging at each other with reckless abandon.
“Buyanga and Muteswa have practically played football with the child and have used the courts as their playground,” said Justice Mafusire in his judgment delivered on Friday.
The pair’s dogfight over custody of the boy, said the judge, had clogged the registry with their cases, having been to the magistrates’ courts, the Children’s court, the High Court and the Supreme Court. As it stands, the pair has several cases pending at the Supreme Court.
Buyanga, the judge said, had spared no one in his fight to wrestle custody of the boy, with the police, immigration, the birth registry, Government and even foreign airlines all put on his litigation sword.
“At one time or other, spurious complaints have been raised against judicial officials and some law enforcement agencies, purportedly for indecorous and biased handling of the case,” said Justice Mafusire.
“Further, the protagonists have made accusations and counter-accusations against each other of snatching or kidnapping the child from the public places like a school and a shopping centre. Such behaviour is classically egocentric.”
In the present case, Buyanga had sued eight people with Muteswa cited as the first respondent.
The other seven are: Mr Killian Kapfidza, Commissioner–General of Police Godwin Matanga, Registrar-General Clemence Masango, Chief Immigration Officer Respect Gono, Justice
Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, the Sheriff Macduff Madega and South African Airways.
Justice Mafusire threw out Buyanga’s application and criticised the scantiness of the information placed before him.
He said since the High Court was the upper guardian of all minor children in the country, it was imperative that he was told the whereabouts of the child over whose interest and welfare he was being asked to determine.
“That is why I had asked upfront where the child was. My query has gone unanswered,” said Justice Mafusire. “The supplementary affidavit, purportedly in response to my questions, had left me none the wiser. Nor did the submissions during the hearing.”
The court found that Advocate Lewis Uriri, who acted for Buyanga, was in an invidious position in the case, having to ventilate issues from the application drawn up by his instructing lawyer that was insupportable.
The judge said litigants should not play hide-and-seek with courts and warned lawyers against behaving like “hired guns”.
“They are officers of the court. Litigation is not a game of wits,” he said. “It is a serious and scientific process to resolve disputes among individuals and to settle problems in the society. The search for truth is paramount. It is a duty for everyone.”
Justice Mafusire said a party that conceals material information from the court must be unworthy of its protection or assistance, adding that Buyanga was not being candid with the court and had lied.
Ms Olivia Zvedi from the civil-division of the Attorney-General represented the three State agencies: the police, Registrar-General and Chief Immigration Officer. The Herald