LSZ probes lawyer in property scam
The Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) is looking into a case in which prominent Mutare lawyer Cosmas Chibaya of Chibaya and Partners Legal Practitioners is accused of selling a residential stand he knew was at the centre of an ownership dispute.
Chibaya allegedly pocketed US$13 000 paid by the complainant, Lackmore Chikove, for the residential stand in Chikanga high density suburb.
Chikove has since approached LSZ seeking to have Chibaya sanctioned for selling the property he knew had an ownership dispute.
LSZ is an association mandated with registering lawyers and regulating how lawyers and law firms operate in Zimbabwe.
Chibaya has however denied the allegations against him, saying he never sold the stand to Chikove.
According to the letter of complaint to the LSZ, Chikove claims he suffered financial prejudice as a result of Chibaya’s actions.
He accused Chibaya and another lawyer, Medusa Simango of Mupindu Legal Practitioners, of not executing their professional duties honestly and diligently.
Chikove claims that in April 2021, he inquired about stand 1521 in Chikanga Phase One from Chibaya who told him the stand was up for sale and he was in possession of the original title deeds.
Chibaya told him the stand, measuring 312 square metres, was being sold for US$13 000.
Chikove, who was in the company of his brother Lovemore Chikove and a friend Romio Charles Tembo advised Chibaya that he had US$9 000 cash and proposed to offset the balance on agreed payment terms.
“Chibaya personally took me to view the stand after which we returned to his office,” reads part of the letter by Chikove.
He said while at the office on the same day, Chibaya called two gentlemen to his office identified as Godfrey Kamandiapa and Givemore Masiye.
Chikove said Chibaya purported that the two were the owners of the stand and that he had represented Kamandiapa in a dispute concerning the stand which involved Masiye, but said the matter had since been resolved.
“He guaranteed me that no other person was claiming the stand. He showed me the original title deeds in the name of Givemore Masiye and stated that there was no need to do any deed search since he had held the original title deeds for more than 10 years,” he said.
Chikove said Chibaya went on to draft an agreement between Kamandiapa and Masiye where they were agreeing to refund each other and end the dispute between them dating back to 2005.
“Afterwards, he informed me that he was now going to prepare an agreement of sale between me and Givemore Masiye. What surprised me was that despite his assurance that all was well, he advised that he was taking us to Medusa Simango, his colleague, who would finish up the process.
“He had taken the US$9 000 from me which was a deposit for the stand, but to me it remained unclear who the seller was,” said Chikove.
He said he also paid US$250 to Chibaya for the agreement of sale and was instructed to also pay US$50 to Simango.
Chikove said an agreement of sale was then crafted by Simango. He said he paid the US$4 000 balance after three months as had been agreed.
He said he first paid US$1 500 on June 1, 2021, then US$800 on July 2, US$1 200 on August 3 and US$500 on 23 August, which payments were acknowledged in the form of receipts from Mupindu Legal Practitioners.
Chikove said in December that year, he approached Simango and told her that he was ready to pay the transfer fees and valuation fees to commence construction, which he duly paid.
In January 2022, Simango is said to have prepared the transfer papers and Chikove started building his house after being given the assurance by Simango that all was in order.
However, in February 2022 he was surprised to see Joseph Ngorima come to the residential stand, claiming it was his.
“Even more shocking is that Ngorima showed me his original title deed and High Court papers which revealed a long-standing dispute between him, Masiye and Kamandiapa.
“He even told me that Chibaya was fully aware of the dispute yet he had never disclosed it to me. Chibaya was actually sued by Ngorima in one of the court cases, but he refused to give Masiye’s title deeds to Ngorima,” reads the letter by Chikove.
By this time the construction at the stand had reached window level.
Chikove said he was surprised to find out that Ngorima had actually placed caveats for his title deeds at the housing department at City of Mutare and the Deeds Registry Office, which explained why Chibaya insisted on not doing a deeds search from the onset.
Chikove says upon being confronted by Ngorima, Chibaya immediately agreed that he had wronged him and promised to settle the matter amicably.
“Both Chibaya and Simango arranged a meeting with Ngorima’s lawyers from Bere Brothers Legal Practitioners and they both promised to secure an alternative stand in Chikanga for me.
“Promises by Chibaya and Simango to either secure another stand or reimburse me the full cost of the prejudice I suffered were not honoured,” said Chikove.
“The two lawyers whom I have complained against were unprofessional and never attempted to protect my interests and now give me a cold shoulder, leaving me with no other option but to approach the Law Society of Zimbabwe for recourse,” read the letter by Chikove.
Chikove said on 10 November 2022, he was given US$10 000 as part refund for the US$13 000 he had used to purchase the stand.
He had however indicated to Chibaya that he had spent over US$14 000 on construction works to develop the stand and other sundry expenses, so he rounded the figure up and demanded a quantum of US$28 000 to cover all his costs, including the US$13 000 purchase price for the stand.
However, after receiving that first part payment in November, Chikove says Chibaya started evading him despite making several efforts to engage him through his colleagues in the legal profession.
“I am baffled that he is now denying having transacted with me but I have acknowledgement of receipt papers that were signed before lawyers that mediated our case.
He paid that money in front of lawyers from Gonese and Ndlovu Legal Practitioners and Maunga Maanda and Associates,” said Chikove.
On April 24 this year, the executive secretary of the LSZ, Edward Mapara responded to Chikove’s complaint and also attached the response by Chibaya.
In the letter, Mapara said in terms of Part VIII of the Law Society By-Laws, SI 314 of 1982, the determination of the professional and ethical conduct which was alleged by the complainant would be considered on the basis of documentary evidence received from both parties involved.
“You are therefore encouraged to furnish as much evidence as possible in substantiating any averments you may make in relation to this complaint investigation,” reads the letter from the LSZ to Chikove.
However, in his response to the allegations in the complaint letter from Chikove to the LSZ, Chibaya through his lawyer from Henning Lock Legal Practitioners, Notaries and Conveyancers dated 17 March 2023, dismissed all the allegations against him as lies.
“Firstly, I state that the complainant, Mr Lackmore Chikove, has never been a client to Chibaya and Partners and he never consulted us. I state that Mr Lackmore Chikove did not make any payment whatsoever to Chibaya and Partners as a client,” reads the response by Chibaya.
Mapara said when a complaint was made to the LSZ, an investigation would be opened where the accused lawyer would also be given the opportunity to respond to the complaints raised.
He said the Chikove vs Chibaya case was still under preliminary investigations and both parties had so far presented their cases.
“Once the LSZ is satisfied with the submissions and evidence by both parties, a Committee of Council will make recommendations on the penalty to be handed down if the lawyer is found guilty,” said Mapara.
Simango said she was not in a position to comment and referred questions to one Chris Ndlovu whom she said was handling the matter.
“All I can say is I was not involved in any fraudulent dealings. It was Chibaya who brought Mr Chikove to me as stated in his complaint letter to the LSZ. For the rest of the details, I can refer you to the lawyer handling the case, Chris Ndlovu,” said Simango.