Chamisa balks at $3,2m court bill

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - FRONT PAGE - Lin­coln Towindo

MDC-AL­LIANCE pres­i­dent Mr Nel­son Chamisa’s stunt to chal­lenge Pres­i­dent Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa’s vic­tory in the July 30 polls, even against the ad­vise from some sec­tions in the op­po­si­tion party’s group­ing, has back­fired spec­tac­u­larly af­ter it emerged that the party is now grap­pling to set­tle the re­sul­tant $3,2 mil­lion le­gal bill.

The Con­sti­tu­tional Court unan­i­mously dis­missed with costs Mr Chamisa’s Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion court pe­ti­tion on Au­gust 24th. The party there­fore has the bur­den to meet the le­gal bills of all the par­ties that took part in the pro­ceed­ings.

ZANU-PF as­sem­bled a 12-mem­ber le­gal team led by Ad­vo­cate Lewis Uriri — con­sid­ered as one of the coun­try’s sharpest le­gal minds — for the court case.

Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa’s lawyers re­cently billed Mr Chamisa’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives, claim­ing the costs as or­dered by the court.

But the MDC-Al­liance, which claims the in­voice is “ex­ag­ger­ated”, is yet to re­spond to the de­mand for pay­ment a fort­night af­ter re­ceiv­ing the bill.

It is, how­ever, be­lieved that the par­ties could soon seek ar­bi­tra­tion from the Reg­is­trar of the Court, who could de­ter­mine the bill through a process called tax­a­tion of costs.

Tax­a­tion of costs is a process per- formed by the court upon res­o­lu­tion of a civil case where rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the claimant and de­fen­dant fail to agree on the quan­tum of costs as or­dered by the court.

The Sun­day Mail learnt last week that Dube, Manikai and Hwacha Le­gal Prac­ti­tion­ers, the in­struct­ing firm to Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa’s le­gal team, in­voiced Mr Chamisa’s lawyers a bill of around $3,2 mil­lion.

That fig­ure ex­cludes costs for the Zim­babwe Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (ZEC) and Mr El­ton Man­goma’s lawyers.

Mr Canaan Dube of Dube, Manikai and Hwacha le­gal prac­ti­tion­ers, who was the in­struct­ing coun­sel to Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa’s le­gal team, said a re­sponse is yet to come from Mr Chamisa’s lawyers.

“When you go to court and a judge­ment is de­liv­ered; if you are suc­cess­ful, you are en­ti­tled to re­cover your costs.

“What you re­cover de­pends on the at­ti­tude of the los­ing party.

“The party that is granted the costs bills the los­ing party and if they both agree, the bills are paid.

“If the par­ties fail to agree, we go through a process that is called tax­a­tion, which is led by the courts tax­ing master who looks at the bill item by item and then de­cides whether the bill is fair or not.

“We wrote to them some­time last week or the week be­fore that and we haven’t heard from them since then.

“Ob­vi­ously, we can­not dis­cuss these mat­ters in the Press as they are con­fi­den­tial and it may jeop­ar­dise the whole process.

“The ne­go­ti­a­tions are a process and not an event and some­times the com­mu­ni­ca­tion can come through a phone call, so we don’t know when they will re­spond.”

He said they have en­sured that their bill is fair, just and rea­son­able.

He how­ever said the law and the rules of the courts do not pre­scribe a pe­riod dur­ing which the bills must be set­tled.

Zanu-PF sec­re­tary for le­gal af­fairs, Cde Paul Mang­wana, who was also part of the Pres­i­dent’s le­gal team, said if the mat­ter is not re­solved soon, the par­ties will re­sort to the tax­a­tion process.

Said Cde Mang­wana: “The lawyers from both sides are ne­go­ti­at­ing and we haven’t yet re­solved the mat­ter; in par­tic­u­lar, the quan­tum of the costs as or­dered by the court.

“If the lawyers fail to reach an agree­ment, we will take the mat­ter to court for res­o­lu­tion through a process known as tax­a­tion.

“When you win a case with costs, your lawyers will send a bill of es­ti­mates to the other side to see if they agree with your quan­tifi­ca­tion.

“That is where we are now.

“The lawyers have been ex­chang­ing notes over the last few weeks and ne­go­ti­a­tions are on­go­ing.

“If they do not reach a res­o­lu­tion, the Reg­is­trar of Court will, through the process of tax­a­tion, go through the claimant’s bill to see whether he has charged ap­pro­pri­ately.

“I can­not dis­cuss how much we have claimed be­cause those mat­ters are con­fi­den­tial,” said Cde Mang­wana.

MDC-Al­liance sec­re­tary-gen­eral Mr Dou­glas Mwon­zora said his boss will in­voke the process of tax­a­tion of costs.

“We were ad­vised that they have billed us for the costs as or­dered by the court,” said Mr Mwon­zora.

“In our view, the bill is ex­tremely ex­ces­sive, not bonafide and grossly ex­ag­ger­ated and our lawyers are go­ing to con­test it.

“We are told that they have billed us a fig­ure of around US$3, 2 mil­lion.

“There is a process called tax­a­tion where if we fail to agree on the bill, the court will have to go through the bill and de­ter­mine what is fair.

“The bill we have at the mo­ment is grossly ma­li­cious.”

Mr Chamisa’s spokesper­son Dr Nku­l­uleko Sibanda did not re­spond to ques­tions sent by The Sun­day Mail de­spite hav­ing promised to do so by yes­ter­day morn­ing.

While the fi­nal bill re­quires ap­proval by the Reg­is­trar of the Court, fail­ure to set­tle the bill by the op­po­si­tion leader will re­sult in loss of per­sonal prop­erty.

The op­po­si­tion party is fac­ing se­ri­ous fi­nan­cial dis­tress af­ter be­ing aban­doned by its tra­di­tional spon­sors.

To raise funds for set­tling the back-break­ing ConCourt bill, the party re­sorted to multi-plat­form crowd-fund­ing ini­tia­tives, which have how­ever failed to gain any trac­tion.

A go­fundme ini­tia­tive, cre­ated on Au­gust 26 with a tar­get of rais­ing £100 000 pounds, has been re­ceived in a luke­warm fash­ion, only hav­ing raised £22 000 pounds by yes­ter­day af­ter­noon.

The last do­na­tion of £20 pounds was made five days ago.

The party, which is fac­ing a myr­iad of fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties, also risks seizure of its prop­erty over a labour case in­volv­ing for­mer di­rec­tor-gen­eral Mr Toen­depi Shonhe.

Last month, the High Court sher­iff was in­structed to at­tach party prop­erty over $264 000 in labour dam­ages awarded to Mr Shonhe.

Six­teen other ex-em­ploy­ees won a chal­lenge at the Labour Court af­ter be­ing fired in 2014 over al­leged links to a ri­val op­po­si­tion out­fit led by for­mer fi­nance min­is­ter Mr Tendai Biti.

All 17 em­ploy­ees are owed $665 000 but the writ of seizure is­sued last week is in re­spect of Mr Shonhe’s $264 444

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