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Fraudulent divorces: Deputy Sheriff fired

Walter Chikwana
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Divorce orders obtained fraudulently by some greedy men with a view to stripping their spouses in the Diaspora of matrimonial property, are now on the increase amid reports that a Deputy Sheriff was recently fired while another is under investigation for fraudulent service of court documents.

Some couples are now living separately as women leave the country for greener pastures.

Men who remain in Zimbabwe, at times, rope in some corrupt elements at the Sheriffs office to misrepresent to the court that they would have personally served the wives with divorce papers.

Proof of service is filed at court, with the Sheriff confirming personally serving the parties for the case.

The court will then treat the cases as if they were unopposed. 

Judges end up granting divorce orders without the wives’ knowledge.

In some cases, men engage female friends who pose as their spouses to obtain decrees of divorce and favourable sharing of property without their wives’ knowledge.

The men use the “hired” women to file fake divorce proceedings, file consent papers and agree to a property sharing model which favours the husbands.

Judicial Service Commission (JSC) Secretary Mr Walter Chikwana this week said an officer had since been fired while another is under investigation for fraudulent service of documents.

“We have one case where we fired an officer at the Sheriff’s office over fraudulent service of documents. In respect of the story published last week where fraudulent divorce was exposed, another officer who handled the case, is now under investigation.

“If found guilty, the officer will be discharged,” he said.

Mr Chikwana said the new electronic court system will help to end corruption in the serving of court papers.

“We are introducing electronic service of court documents and the Sheriff will not be involved in that.

“The electronic system will end such challenges,” he said.

This month the High Court exposed the case of a woman who wedded an ailing married man in the week he died and sought to take over the property he acquired together with his wife who was fending for the family in the Diaspora.

Mrs Martha Singizi, who has been based in the United Kingdom for almost 20 years, got the shock of her life upon discovering that her late husband had “divorced” her using fraudulent documents.

The discovery sparked fears that the Sheriff of the High Court’s office could have played a role in the fabrication of service papers.

Presented with fraudulent return of service documents from the Sheriff’s office confirming Mrs Singizi had been personally served with divorce papers at her Chitungwiza house, but decided to default court, Justice Tendai Uchena in 2015 granted the divorce in favour of the now late Mr Edmore Singizi.

Two houses, one in Waterfalls and the other one in New Zengeza 4, Chitungwiza, that were jointly owned by the couple, were awarded to Mr Singizi.

Mrs Singizi’s travel documents show she never set foot in Zimbabwe during the period of the said service, but the Sheriff’s papers filed on record claiming she had personally been served with the divorce papers.

Based on the fraud, the husband started living with another woman Ms Josephine Makuwaza.

Mr Singizi fell sick and tied the knot with Ms Makuwaza under the monogamous Marriages Act, Chapter 5:11.

Barely a week after the marriage, he passed on. Ms Makuwaza then registered the estate at the Master of High Court’s office as the surviving spouse.

In another case, Justice Garainesu Mawadze urged lawyers to be on the lookout for fraudsters in divorce cases.

He made the remarks while setting aside a judgment in which a UK-based nurse Mrs Lucia Vela had been “divorced” and lost property as a result of fraud.

“In view of the apparent increase in the number of cases of fraud of this nature in divorce proceedings (I dealt recently with a chamber application for substituted service in which I recommended the investigation as applicant in that matter also claimed not to have instituted any divorce proceedings like in casu), I have directed the Registrar of the High Court to bring this judgment to the attention of the Law Society of Zimbabwe so that legal practitioners are alerted to prevalence of this obnoxious practice which threatens to erode confidence in our judicial system in unopposed divorce matters . . . ” said Justice Mawadze.

This was after Ms Vela’s lawyer Mr Cephas Mavhondo of Mhishi Legal Practice convinced the court that the judgment was fraudulent.

The judge said the practice was dangerous in the sense that judges can even be duped into believing that the parties before them are the correct ones and subsequently grant the orders sought.

Mrs Vela married Mr Costa Magolis in 1998 in terms of the Marriages Act Chapter 5:11 and the union was blessed with three children.

The woman relocated to the UK in 2001 and is staying there with her children.Mr Magolis later followed his wife to the UK and they had marital problems that culminated in a separation in 2007.

Ms Vela later returned to Zimbabwe where she discovered that she had been fraudulently divorced.

The records showed that she had been divorced in 2009 when she neither filed any divorce papers nor consented to any divorce proceedings.

Investigations by the woman’s lawyers revealed that Mr Magolis approached a lawyer, only identified as Mr Mapondera of Mapondera and Company, accompanied by a certain woman who posed as Ms Vela seeking legal representation in the divorce case.

They indicated that they were agreeable to divorce and the manner in which property would be shared.

The court granted the order.In a related pending court case, Harare businessman Mr Rochford Biggie Munjoma allegedly engaged a woman who forged his wife’s signature and obtained a divorce order.

Mr Munjoma’s wife, Febby Christina Munjoma, at the time of the filing of the summons, was in a Chinese prison where she was serving a sentence for smuggling ivory.

She only discovered the divorce when she returned to Zimbabwe and took the matter to court.

Justice Tendai Uchena nullified the fraudulent divorce.

“The divorce proceedings issued out under HC4789/09 on the 7th of October 2009, processed by the respondent (Mr Munjoma) and another person known to the respondent who purported to be Febby Christina Munjoma (nee Ushamba), the real and actual applicant herein and which proceedings were finalised by this Honourable Court granting an order of divorce between the applicant and respondent are hereby declared null and void.

“The divorce order granted by consent as a result of those defective proceedings referred to in paragraph 1 herein above is hereby revoked.

“Everything that done by the divorce in case number HC4789/09 granted on the 20th of November 2009 by the Honourable Justice Chitakunye is hereby declared null and void,” reads part of the court order. – Herald