Judge Reserves Judgment in US$1.5 Million Property Dispute
In a contentious legal battle, Supreme Court judge Justice Chinembiri Bhunu has reserved judgment in a high-stakes property dispute involving Harare business tycoon Tendai Mashamhanda.
The case revolves around allegations of fraud and the disputed ownership of a property purchased for US$230,000, subsequently developed to the value of US$1.5 million.
High Court Ruling and Supreme Court Appeal: The High Court, in a November judgment (HH 637/23), ordered Mashamhanda’s eviction from the property located at The Remainder of Subdivision C of Plot 6 of Lots 190, 191, 193, 194, and 195 of Highlands Estate of Welmoed, also known as 41 Ridgeway North, Highlands, Harare. However, Mashamhanda, represented by lawyer Professor Lovemore Madhuku, lodged an urgent appeal with the Supreme Court, seeking a stay of execution of the High Court judgment.
Allegations of Judicial Misconduct: In an intriguing twist, Mashamhanda has accused Justice Bhunu of mishandling other cases involving him, demanding the judge’s resignation. Citing Section 14 of the Judicial Service (Code of Ethics) Regulations, Mashamhanda contends that Justice Bhunu should have recused himself from the case due to impartiality concerns.
Supreme Court Application and Urgency: Mashamhanda’s Supreme Court application, filed urgently and in chambers, argues for a stay of execution pending the determination of the appeal. He asserts that the High Court judgment, seeking his eviction, contradicts Section 74 of the Constitution, which protects individuals from eviction without a court order considering all relevant circumstances.
In the application, Mashamhanda emphasizes the urgency of the matter, stating that eviction is imminent, with the respondent already instructing the High Court Registrar to issue a writ of ejectment by December 4, 2023.
Fraudulent Sale Claims and Irregularities: Mashamhanda has outlined six points challenging the legitimacy of the property’s sale to Barriade Investments (Private) Limited. He claims that there was no auction where Barriade purportedly bought the house in a fraudulent manner. Notable irregularities include the absence of a deposit paid by Barriade to the auctioneer or Sheriff, as required by sale conditions, and suspicions regarding the authenticity of documents presented by Barriade.
Mashamhanda alleges that the proof of payment receipt provided by Barriade is fake, pointing to discrepancies in the amount and payee information. He urges a forensic examination of bank statements held by the police to ascertain the authenticity of the transaction.